Screening for Illegal Substances
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Test Standards and Accuracy
Those who oppose drug testing provide numbers indicating a high level of false positives. Those who favor drug testing provide numbers indicating high levels of accuracy. The fact is that accuracy varies widely from lab to lab. Generally speaking, DHHS Certified labs are accurate.
NIDA (The National Institute of Drug Abuse) is the government organization responsible for regulating the drug-testing industry. The vast majority of urine drug screens done these days conform to NIDA specs, and all testing associated with the government (Department of Transportation, etc.) complies with the NIDA standard. It is NIDA that decides what the “safe” cutoffs are to avoid false positives. Despite what you might read on the internet, urinalysis, if done correctly, is a very accurate scientific procedure. I know of no lab that simply reports the results of the initial EMIT screening without confirming the sample on GC/MS. The fact is, labs want you to test negative, because then they only have to run an EMIT test on your urine (a few cents). If you test positive, they must then confirm the positive result on GC/MS, which is considerably more expensive. Incidentally, the machine which tests the hair is a relative of the GC/MS, but is far more precise. It can accurately detect levels of THC as low as 1 ng/mL.
CAP (College of American Pathologists) also certifies laboratories the way NIDA does. NIDA keeps its labs in check by sending positive and negative double-blind samples. Lab personnel do not know which samples came from NIDA. If the lab results are wrong, NIDA may take away the lab’s certification. Only labs that perform the GC/MS onsite can be NIDA certified. Labs that send samples to another laboratory for GC/MS confirmation are ineligible for NIDA certification.Drug testing, when done properly with all required controls and confirmation procedures, is proven to be very accurate and reliable.
Not all labs are NIDA/CAP certified. Some labs do not properly and thoroughly clean the GC/MS equipment. Some labs don’t even do a GC/MS confirmation. Some labs use cheap alternative methods to reduce expenses. Many human errors occur in labs and cause inaccurate results. Some are careless or irresponsible errors, and some errors are accidents. Human error can ruin the results of any test, screening or confirmation GC/MS.
The only lab you should be concerned with is the one that is testing you. Only Federally regulated jobs require high laboratory standards. Your typical private employer may use any lab s/he chooses, which would very likely be the least expensive. Businesses don’t always choose NIDA labs that follow-up a positive screening test with a confirmation GC/MS. The good news is that even certified labs have perfected the testing process so much that their pricing matches or beats that of non-certified laboratories. You can easily find certified labs, if you are interested.
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In the workplace, an EMIT or immunoassay screening is typically used, with a CG/MS confirmation if the EMIT or immunoassay is non-negative. However, this is not a rule; employers can, and some do, use unusual procedures. Some employers use hair tests and still others use saliva testing.
No laboratory process is completely free from error. The GC/MS test is virtually error-free, but the EMIT is far from accurate. There are some false positives you should try to avoid if you’re getting an EMIT test. Take this seriously; false positives run at about 5%. If you know that there will be a GC/MS confirmation test, you can disregard this section. A list of substances that cause false positives can be found here. Generally, though, the most common cause is over-the-counter or prescription medications.
False positive results can be a huge problem, depending upon who you ask. Studies have shown (see above link) that there is a whole host of prescription drugs that will flag illicit drug use in urinalysis. A psycho pharmacologist at UCLA called the false positive problem epidemic because, “The widespread testing and reliance on tell-tale traces of drugs in the urine is simply a panic reaction invoked because the normal techniques for controlling drug use haven’t worked very well. The next epidemic will be testing abuse.”
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When considering your options, remember that a survey by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that 20 percent of the labs surveyed mistakenly reported the presence of illegal drugs in drug-free urine samples. Unreliability also stems from the tendency of drug screens to confuse similar chemical compounds. For example, codeine and Vicks Formula 44-M have been known to produce positive results for heroin, Advil for marijuana, and Nyquil for amphetamines.
If you are worried that a false positive may mean the difference between passing your test and failing your test, visitPassaDrugTest.com for additional information on how to ensure your results are as accurate as possible. If you still have questions, call our Detox Partner PassaDrugTest.com at 1-877-247-1354 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.