DOT Adds Four Semi-Synthetic Opioids to Drug Testing Panel

Posted Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018 by Debbie Lamb, Sterling Talent Solutions

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DOT Adds Four Semi-Synthetic Opioids to Drug Testing Panel

On October 26, 2017, President Trump officially declared that the opioid crisis in the US is a “national public health emergency”. Every community from rural to urban is affected by the increase of opioid usage in the US. Over two million Americans are estimated to have a problem with opioids and the epidemic continues to grow. The non-medical use of prescription psychotherapeutic drugs –and of pain relievers in particular –is now second only to marijuana use among the nation’s most prevalent drugs of choice. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported in 2014 that the number of prescriptions for opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone products, have escalated from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013.

Employee drug testing is a single data point in the assessment of an employee or candidate and an integral part of candidate and employee assessment. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the impact of alcoholism or drug dependence on workplace ranges from increased injuries, higher absenteeism and loss of production. A business that has and enforces a drug and health screening policy will see an increase in the stability of worker productivity while reducing employee turnover. Sterling Talent Solutions discussed the increasing impact of in a recent webinar.

Federally Mandated Drug and Alcohol Screening

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has set federally mandated drug and alcohol screening regulations for “anyone designated in DOT regulations as a safety-sensitive employee.” DOT regulations cover safety-sensitive transportation employers and employees. Each DOT agency (e.g., FRA, FMCSA, FTA, FAA, and PHMSA) and the USCG have specific drug and alcohol testing regulations which outline what is subject to their testing regulations. Each employer will implement the regulations that apply to their specific industry. DOT regulated employers must comply with testing procedures found in 49 CFR Part 40 (“Part 40”) and any applicable DOT agency regulations. “Part 40” dictates how the drug and alcohol test is conducted, who is authorized to participate in these testing programs and what employees much do before they return to work following a drug or alcohol violation.

Safety-sensitive employees are subject to drug or alcohol testing for the following situations throughout their tenure with a company: pre-employment, reasonable suspicion/cause, random, return-to-duty, follow-up, and/or post-accident. Previous DOT drug tests required laboratory testing (49 CFR Part 40 Subpart F) for Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates – opium and codeine derivatives, Amphetamines and methamphetamines and Phencyclidine – PCP. However, based on the release by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of the “Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program-Final Rule” on October 1, 2017, the DOT updated their drug testing requirements to include synthetic opioid drugs.

DOT Drug Panel Updates

In November, the DOT issued a final rule in the Federal Register which amended its drug testing program requirements for DOT-regulated employers by adding four semi-synthetic opioids to the drug testing panel. The new rule goes into effect on January 1, 2018.  The new DOT rule makes the following significant changes:

  • Adds four semi-synthetic opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone) to the drug testing panel
  • Adds methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an initial test analyte because, in addition to being considered a drug of abuse, it is a metabolite of methylenedioxyethylamphetaime (MDEA) and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and such testing potentially acts as a deterrent;
  • Removes testing for MDEA from the existing drug testing panel;
  • Removes the requirement for employers and consortium/third party administrators (C/TPAs) to submit blind specimens in order to relieve unnecessary burdens on employers
  • Adding three “fatal flaws” to the list of when a laboratory would reject a specimen and modifying the “shy bladder” process so that the collector will discard certain questionable specimens.

Update Drug Testing Policies to Comply with New Rules

Companies should have their drug testing policies reviewed and updated for 2018. Employers who comply with DOT drug testing standards should modify their drug testing policies based on the updated rules. Employers that are not subject to DOT requirements, but comply with the HHS Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs also should consider whether to modify their drug testing policies to comply with the new rules and guidelines. Companies who promote a drug-free environment will need to review their policy with legal counsel, consistently apply drug testing policies across all candidates and employees and consider the health and safety of all workers in the application of the predetermined drug screening policy.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.