The start of employment drug screening can be traced back to the 80’s and President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan issues executive order 12564, on September 15th, 1986 and it established a goal of a Drug Free Federal Workplace. This executive order only applied to Federal employees but soon became adopted by private and public enterprise. From the late 80’s and into the 90’s Drug Free Workplace programs sprouted up in most of corporate America. The standard for testing was urine. To this day, urine is still considered the “gold-standard” for drug screening and the only method allowable for Federal employees. The private workforce has always looked for ways to have more options for their Drug Free Workplace programs.
Hair Drug Screening picked up steam in the 90’s as an alternative to the traditional urine screening. The biggest advantage was the detection window of drugs was 90 days, instead of the 3 days for urine (for most drugs). The biggest drawback was the price tag, coming in at 3 times the price of a urine screen. Many employees jumped on this technology as it provided more of a lifestyle snapshot and not just a look back to the last 3 days of the applicant’s life. In the mid 2000’s Oral Fluid became the new in thing for drug screening. Its biggest draw was it was easily collected and could do so anywhere. There were no gender issues as you had with urine, or running into “follicle challenged” individuals with hair screens. The biggest drawback to Oral Fluid was the detection time was around 24 hours, which is 1/3 of the time of a typical urine screen. Many Drug Free Workplace programs today use a mixture of these methods, as each has advantages and disadvantages. When they are used together in one program you are able to use all of it to betterment of your program and company.
Fast forward to today, the year is 2013 and what is next? All signs point towards Finger Prints, Breath and Retina Scans. A UK company has developed and is currently in beta testing with a product that can drug test you off of sweat from your finger print. You put your finger into this machine, as if you were having your prints read, and the screen reacts and changes colors based on the presence of drugs. A Swedish company has developed a disposable breath device that can test for illegal substances. Typically these devices are used for alcohol only, but this company now makes them for over 10 illegal drugs. A third company, also based in Europe, has developed a technology that can give an instant read using an optical detection kit. The device works by flashing a green light into the pupil three times and measuring the speed of the contractions and dilation to decide if a person is currently impaired.
With the advent of the smart phone, medical and health applications for personal monitoring are aggressively being perused. It is only a matter of time before your medical condition and a drug test can be instantly requested and recorded via your smart phone. Imagine your phone alerting that you have an hour to conduct your drug test. You launch the Drug Screening App, hold the phone in front of your face and center the box on the screen so that your eye is lined up with the registration marks. The phone beeps and the light flashes three times and the response of your pupil is recorded and uploaded to the Virtual Medical Review Office. No doubt, the lawyers reading this are already contemplating their positions on this potential screening technology. I wonder if they will cash their retainer’s through the Mobile Deposit technology now readily available on most smart phones; Probably not.