Did you know that your painkillers can cause you to fail a drug test?
The initiative that started in October 2017 introduced four new prescription opioids on all mandatory drug tests in 2018. This applies to any workplaces or institutions where mandatory drugs tests are required.
You might be wondering which prescriptions opioids are affected by the new law. The four prescription substances are as follows: oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone.
Also known as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Dilaudid, the four substances included in all mandatory drugs tests are semi-synthetic opioids.
If you’re prescribed any of these opiates by your doctor as part of pain management therapy, you will not be affected negatively by these new measures.
However, 9.4% of Americans 12 or older admitted to using illicit drugs in 2013. This includes misuse of prescription drugs. A few years after, the federal mandatory guidelines were put in place to identify prescription substance abuse.
Drug Testing for Prescription Drugs Is Now a Reality
The idea of checking if your employee is taking illicit drugs isn’t new. However, what is new is the idea that some opiate painkillers are also considered drugs when misused.
Prescription medication was used by many as a cover for addiction. Since most believed that painkillers can’t be that addictive, many illicit drug users got away with it.
Oxycontin is one of the best examples of how little even specialists knew about the risks of addiction when taking painkillers. Purdue Pharma marketed the drug as being safer than other opioid painkillers on the market. The substance that was previously used to bring some relief to terminal cancer patients was now on the market for short-term pain management.
Unfortunately, the painkiller was highly addictive and it didn’t offer the effects that were promised. The pharmaceutical company advised doctors to increase their doses instead of admitting their fraudulent marketing tactics.
Many bad-intentioned doctors have been charged in the past decade for providing prescription opiates to patients that would later sell them on the black market. As a consequence, many patients were becoming addicted to the drug, and they could also get away with it since nobody was testing for the drug that was being prescribed as a painkiller.
One of the measures to fight the opioid crisis are workplace drug tests, especially in public health and public safety.
Does this mean that from now you’ll be shamed for taking a painkiller?
Of course not. If you’re taking the recommended dose and have a prescription to prove it, you won’t be affected by these measures.
While there are non-addictive painkillers on the market, not everyone can afford them since insurance companies prefer to cover inexpensive opioids instead.
Going “doctor shopping” to find a someone who will act as a supplier for prescription opiates is a common way for addicts to get their dose while covering themselves with a prescription. This is another reason why prescription medicine is on the blacklist.
Policies at the Workplace and What Employers Can and Can’t Do
The Drug-free Workplace Toolkit created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides some guidance for businesses when it comes to detecting substance abuse in the workplace.
Business owners are advised in the Drug-Free Workplace Toolkit to create a written policy where sanctions are clearly outlined. Also, investments in training programs and consistency are encouraged.
The following are the five steps that each business is encouraged to take:
- Develop written policies
- Put together training programs
- Teach supervisors how to detect the signs of drug abuse
- Plan and put into action the written policies
- Use drug testing to assess how effective other measures are
That being said, there are also laws that protect workers from abuse.
For example, it is considered discrimination for a business owner to refuse to give a penalty to one worker but apply it to everyone else in the workplace.
There are many other things an employer or supervisor cannot do. They can penalize you, but they cannot jump to conclusions before taking a drug test. Also, they’re not allowed to confront you about it in front of your co-workers.
At times, supervisors might believe that impaired performance is due to illicit drug use when in fact, lack of sleep, stress or burn-out might be the cause.
There are also laws that protect you or a loved one from getting fired if medical leave for substance abuse is necessary, or if there is a history of drug abuse.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to companies that have more than 50 employees and protects you or a loved one from getting fired. The law applies when a 12-week leave is needed to recover from substance abuse.
FMLA denies the right of employers to refuse a promotion to an employee who suffers from a substance abuse and wants to benefit from medical leave. This also applies to those who can prove that they use the 12-week leave to help their loved ones suffering from substance abuse.
How Long Do Opioid Drugs Stay in Your Body
Blood tests, urine tests and saliva blood tests can all show if you have recently taken prescription drugs. However, most opiates tend to leave the body quite quickly.
When suspecting opiate abuse, testing a hair follicle can be quite useful since hair preserves opioid traces for longer.
There is one exception. When the drug is used for a prolonged period of time, it penetrates the fatty acids, which retain traces of the substance for longer. In cases like this, saliva and urine tests are highly effective too.
Prescription opiates are usually found in pill form. But if someone crushes the pill to snort it, or if the crushed pill is diluted to be injected, the drug passes through the body more quickly. While it might seem like a good thing, it can actually lead to an overdose because it impacts the body differently.
However, there are a few factors that affect how fast you get rid of the substances in your body:
- How fast your metabolism is
- Your height, weight lean and fat mass
- Your activity level
- How efficient your liver and kidneys are at detoxifying your body
- Your age
- The type of opiate and the dose
- How often you use the substance
Your body fat percentage, activity levels and the health of your kidney and liver are the main players when it comes to flushing out opioids.
The more fat you store, the higher your chances of absorbing it more efficiently. If you’re quite sedentary, your metabolism won’t be encouraged to get rid of the substances faster either.
Saliva tests are mostly inaccurate when it comes to measuring opiates since they need to be taken 5-12 hours (depending on the drug) after the last dose. Hair follicle tests, on the other hand, can find traces of opiates for up to 3 months.
Are Prescription Pain Pills Worth the Hassle?
The answer to this question all depends on how susceptible you are to addictions. You talk to your doctor about what factors make someone more likely to be addicted to their painkillers.
In many cases, a family history of alcoholism, addictions, use of recreational drugs or some mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder can increase the chances of becoming addicted.
On the other hand, not everyone develops an addiction, especially if they follow their doctor’s instructions to a T. This includes never attempting to increase the dose without medical supervision.
A higher dose doesn’t necessarily result in more efficient pain management. In fact, it often accomplishes the opposite. It can slow down the production of opiates by your body, which is in charge of pain management.
Often, tolerance turns into addiction and can be quite complicated to treat since chronic pain sufferers need a higher dose, not only because of the high but also because of the pain.
But before you weigh the pros and cons you should also be aware that there are non-addictive painkillers that come with much smaller risks.
The major downside of small addiction risk painkillers is their price. Additionally, very few insurance companies cover them.
Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and yoga have also shown significant improvement in the lives of chronic pain sufferers. But in the end, you should discuss your options with your medical provider.
Home Drug Test Kits
Home drug tests kits come in handy when you’re trying to help someone with a history of drug abuse stay on track. They’re often recommended by outpatient programs too. You can find many types of home drug kits out there, from urine containers to hair follicle drug tests.
While you may be tempted to steal a few hairs from someone you love just to make sure they stay on track, this could make things worse. Someone suffering from an addiction is already trying to hide their struggles. By invading their privacy, they will feel betrayed and less motivated to trust you again.
On top of all this, make sure you follow the instructions and buy a home drug test kit that’s endorsed by your doctor. Some home drug test kits can give inaccurate results when purchased from unreliable sources or when you don’t follow instructions properly.
By now, you’re probably asking yourself how this the new prescription drug testing protocols will affect you if you suffer from chronic pain, or how it will affect you or a loved one who is abusing prescription medication.
While drug tests for four new prescription opioids are mandatory next year, it doesn’t mean that you or a loved one will end up unemployed.
As a matter of fact, it’s illegal for a business owner to fire your because of your drug test results. An employer is obligated to give you a penalty. However, they’re also obligated to help you or in your healing journey by including training and educational programs. The goal of the initiative is to help people heal, not shame them.
If you have any questions about prescription opioids or addiction in general, don’t hesitate to ask us!
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