Is Drug Testing Effective?
Over the weekend, my wife and I decided to venture out of the house for a night out. We were able to have the kids stay at my parents for quality time with grandma and grandpa. Which they loved and we really enjoyed because we were able to sleep in without waking up at sunrise.
We went out for a nice dinner and enjoyed some time alone, before celebrating a friend’s birthday. Naturally, drinks were flowing and everyone was enjoying themselves. Thankfully for me, this certain place ignored the cannabis smoke outside. I did have a few drinks and I was quickly reminded why I don’t prefer to drink alcohol, but I didn’t let it ruin my night.
During my night’s adventures, I came across a fellow Marine. This individual served in Iraq around the time I was there, instantly we started chatting it up talking about our experiences. After twenty minutes, I leaned over to my wife and friend and asked them to keep an eye on me. While it’s fun to reminisce, sometimes it’s not a great idea to start thinking and talking about everything, especially when booze is involved. I was able to keep my composure and dodge any potential triggers. After many years and multiple approaches to handle my PTSD, I have a good idea how to manage and how not to get derailed.
I could not say the same for this other individual. He was a few years younger than me and still enjoying his youth, but I could notice a number of red flags that reminded me of my own personal journey. I had never met this person before, but being a fellow Marine, I was concerned. The cannabis advocate in me came screaming out to share my story and my fight with avoidance. Before I was done talking, I had a small crowd of people listening and asking questions.
Unfortunately, this former Marine is unable to medicate or even attempt to medicate with cannabis due to his employers drug policy. Here he is with a high disability rating from the Veteran Affairs and he is only allowed to take the pharmaceutical approach. I pray he has a better outcome than I experienced. This got me thinking again about the importance of drug testing for cannabis, medical or recreational. What does it prove?
Workplace drug testing began in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan mandated drug tests for all federal employees. The practice quickly became commonplace and by 1996, 86 percent of employers tested their employees for drugs. Since 2004, however, workplace drug testing has been declining, reported The Washington Post.
Currently, there are no federal laws that dictate drug testing in private sector workplaces. However, the Drug-Free Workplace Act requires federal contractors with contracts over $100,000 to regularly publish statements informing employees of illegal substances and promoting a drug-free environment. The Department of Labor ended the drug-free workplace program in 2010. Accordingly, it does not currently administer a “Workplace drug testing” advisory web page.
Arguments for Drug testing:
Drug testing makes the stakes of drug use even higher. Thus employees will be less inclined to use drugs if they know it could threaten their employment. According to the Office of Health and Safety Services (OHS), ongoing employee drug testing lowers the number of employees who test positive.
Whether an employee is operating machinery at a construction site or using a knife to chop onions at a diner, most jobs are safer when performed sober. By conducting drug testing, employers are fostering a safe work environment for their employees and for themselves.
Employees who are injured on the job or fired because of drug-related incidents will not be entitled to compensation and will be less likely to file suit against their employer. By testing employees for drugs, employers are protecting their firms from liability and could be saving money in the long run.
Arguments against Drug testing:
Drug testing can cost anywhere from $8 to $42 per test, OHS reported. The estimated average national drug testing cost is about $38 a test. For a company with many employees, the cost of drug testing can add up.
Drug tests can be an invasion of employees’ privacy. So long as employees are not coming to work under the influence, many argue that employers should not care what an employee does on their own time. Additionally, some employers make someone observe the employee during the drug test to assure that no tampering occurred. As a result, drug testing can break down trust among employees and the employer within a workplace.
3. Debatable Accuracy
The usefulness of drug testing is questionable. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues that even the small margin of error associated with drug testing can make a big difference. If millions of tests are administered, even a 5 percent error rate can affect many employees. Drug tests also cannot differentiate between habitual and one-time use, making results possibly unfair.
The most important issue against drug testing for cannabis is how cannabis use is identified.
THC Concentration Levels after Consumption
Smoking is the most common way of using marijuana for the general population. After inhalation, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) quickly enters the blood stream through the lungs. With rapid circulation of the blood, this compound, in conjunction with a myriad of others, including CBD, act almost instantly on the human endocannabiniod system by interacting with CB1 and CB2 receptors located throughout the body.
THC has been found to be immediately detectable, with blood levels of THC reaching a peak at around 9.0 minutes into smoking. In the referenced study, it took between 3 to 12 hours for THC to drop below detection limits for the low-dose group and from 6 to 27 hours for the high-dose group of the study. However, the subjects of this study were not regular marijuana smokers, which explains why THC levels fell so quickly. Keep in mind, this is based on blood detection. Urine detection is a different story.
Generally, active THC blood concentrations decrease rapidly after you finish smoking due to its fast uptake into tissues. However, if the uptake tissues are saturated with THC, it isn’t uncommon for blood levels of active THC to remain high for several days in chronic marijuana users. This is because over time, these fatty tissues leach THC molecules back into the blood stream (increasing the blood detection window), where the liver continues metabolizing them into non-psychoactive, THC-COOH derivatives for your body to pass (increasing the urine detection window).
Marijuana Detection Times
Drug tests for THC in the body can be divided into two categories, historical use and present intoxication. Historical use includes the infamous urine drug test along with the hair follicle test. These tests almost always target the THC-COOH molecule, a non-psychoactive substance that has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s level of sobriety; used only to determine if someone used the substance in the past, regardless if use was during personal time.
To detect present intoxication, the blood serum and saliva tests are typically employed. These tests indicate whether or not active THC molecules are present, therefore being an indicator of “being impaired,” despite the users’ level of tolerance (note: marijuana is not alcohol, therefore marijuana tolerance is not comparible to alcohol tolerance). These type of tests are supposed to be accurate to within a couple of days, but that is under heavy scrutiny. For instance, it can literally take days for a healthy, chronic marijuana user’s THC levels to drop below 5 ng/mL of blood. Five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood being the poorly researched DUI limit that a group of circle jerking lawyers pulled out of a German study and slapped into law books in Colorado and Washington. Here’s an excellent article covering the DUI background of what’s going on in Colorado.
Urinalysis Drug Testing
This is the most common drug test. The test is quite easy and all that is required is a sample of urine by the subject for the test to be carried out. The sample is first taken to the laboratory then screened under a threshold sensitivity level. If the targeted metabolites (THC-COOH) of the test are found to be below the national standard of 50 ng/mL, then the sample is marked negative and you pass the test! However, if it’s higher than 50 ng/mL, then the sample is tested a second time for confirmation.
The second test is conducted with the use of more advanced equipment. Typically, a Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS) is used. This test is analyzed under a threshold of 15 ng/ml, which makes the result very accurate. If the sample is higher than this, then “Test Positive for Marijuana” is reported.
How long is THC detectable in urine? If you are a chronic marijuana user, THC can be detected in your system using a urine test for up to 12 weeks depending on the quantity as well as frequency of use. Note that if you just used marijuana once and stopped, the odds of passing a test within the first week are decent but you can still test positive for up to 30 days.
Hair Follicle Drug Testing
Although hair testing is more accurate compared to the other tests, it is relatively expensive and not reliable if a person only used marijuana once in the past. However, the advantage this test has over all others is that it can be used to detect the use of marijuana for months. Just an inch of hair from a person’s scalp is all specialists need for the test. And hair from any other part of the body can still be used – the pubic area, arms and legs.
Blood Serum Drug Testing
This is type of test is used to detect current usage of drugs such as marijuana. It also helps to investigate car/work accidents. After a single use of marijuana, the blood test can produce positive results for 6-24 hours. However, for regular users, a blood test can produce positive results for up to 7 days or more.
Saliva Drug Testing
This is the newest test for marijuana usage and hence not commonly used. Usually, it is used to investigate car and work accidents. This is because the test can detect whether a person is under the influence of marijuana or not. A saliva test can produce positive results within the first 24 hours of its usage.
H/t: Marijuana Central