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Workplace & Industry Testing FAQs

Click on the frequently asked questions below to view the answers.

Why are potential employees tested for drugs of abuse?

There are many occupations where an individual who is using or abusing drugs may affect the safety of himself/herself, his/her coworkers and the general public. For this reason alone, employers are conducting pre-placement drug screening protocols to promote, maintain and improve safety in the workplace.

Is it true that some positive drug results may in fact be negative when confirmed?

Immunoassay techniques used by laboratories for initial testing purposes will detect the presence of a specific drug above a threshold level with 95% confidence. These techniques use antibodies that recognize the shape of a specific drug and produce a positive result. However, other compounds and drugs which are similar in shape to the drug of interest may also react with the antibody, thus producing a positive result. This phenomenon, called cross-reaction, may potentially lead to a false positive for drugs. For this reason, confirmation using a chemically different technique is essential.

In order to prove beyond a doubt, the identity of a drug present in a sample, Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) is the only technique which can be used. GC/MS produces a fragmentation pattern of a compound and hence undeniable identification. This fragmentation pattern is analogous to a fingerprint. GC/MS is the only analytical technique that will withstand legal scrutiny.

What kind of rights does the potential employee have? The employer?

In preplacement drug testing programs, the following items should be considered:
The Human Rights Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code and other provincial human rights legislation guarantee the protection of the individual from unfair hiring practices across Canada. It is illegal to discriminate against employment of candidates on the basis of a “handicap” or illness and most human rights commissions in Canada seem willing to treat alcohol or drug dependence as a handicap. In fact, the Canadian Human Rights Act specifically states that a “disability” includes a previous or existing dependence on alcohol or a drug.

An employer must abide by the human rights regulations pertaining to discrimination based upon a handicap. In this case, alcohol or drug dependence, unless the handicap interferes with the performance of the essential duties of the job in a safe and reliable manner. According to the labour laws and occupational health and safety regulations, an employer has the legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment for his/her employees. For this reason, an employer can justify the institution of a drugs of abuse testing program in many instances.

Do you know the difference between an opiate and an opioid, and are you testing for everything you need to?

Many prescribed pharmaceuticals are being misused. It is important that if testing for an opiate, that opioids are also considered.

Opiates are alkaloids derived from the opium poppy. Opium is a strong pain-relieving medication, and a number of drugs are also made from this source.

Types of Opiates- Morphine, Codeine, Heroin, Opium.

Opioids are synthetic or partly-synthetic drugs that are manufactured to work in a similar way to opiates. Their active ingredients are made via chemical synthesis. Opioids may act like opiates when taken for pain because they have similar molecules.

Types of Opioids- Methadone, Percocet, Percodan, OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab (hydrocodone), Demerol (pethidine), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), Duragesic (fentanyl)

What drugs can be tested for in urine and how long do they remain detectable?
Substance Detection Period Substance Detection Period
Amphetamines 2-5 days Barbituates (Short-Acting) 2 days
Barbituates (Long-Acting) 3-4 weeks Benzodiazepines 7-10 days
Cannabinoids (THC, Marijuana) 5-60 days (See Chart Below) Clenbuterol 4-6 days
Cocaine 1-4 days Codeine 5-7 days
Euphorics (Ecstasy, Mushrooms) 5-7 days Ketamine (Special K) 5-7 days
LSD – ACID 7-10 days Methamphetamines 5-7 days
Steroids (anabolic oral) 14-28 days Opiates 5-7 days
Steroids (anabolic parenterally) 1-3 months Phencyclidine (PCP) 2-4 days
Phenobarbital 10-20 days Propoxyphene 6 hours to 2 days
Cannabinoids (THC, Marijuana) Approximate  Detection Time:
1 time only 5-8 days
2-4x per month 11-18 days
2-4x per week 23-35 days
5-6x per week 33-48 days
Daily 49-63 days