Understanding Drug Testing Technology

Testing for drugs in the workplace now seems relatively commonplace as many employers, especially large corporations, financial institutions and arms of government, need to ensure that their employees are safe in the workplace.

Drug testing goes back to the 1950s when workers in the heavy metals industries and others would have their hair tested for depositions of heavy metals.

It was in the 1960s and 1970s that the US government realized there was a problem of drugs misuse in the armed forces, especially during the Vietnam War where heroin tended to be the drug of choice for many servicemen. Testing was carried out on samples of urine and a relatively high percentage of airmen, soldiers and sailors were found to have ingested drugs.

Since then, with regular testing programs, the percentage of service personnel found with drugs in their bodies has fallen significantly, a clear sign that the program is effective.

Types of testing

Although blood tests can be used for testing for drugs in the workplace, as an invasive procedure they are not particularly common. The three main methods that have developed over the years of development and production are tests for urine and hair, as alluded to above, and for oral samples, in other words, saliva.

One of the most difficult aspects that those developing drugs testing kits has been to keep ahead as far as possible against those who conspire to mask the appearance of drugs in their system. This has been rife in the sporting world, with athletes attempting to mask the appearance of performance enhancing drugs in their systems.

Happily, drugs testing has advanced to the point where it is less easy for a cheat to prosper in sport, though given some of enormous rewards for winning it is likely that attempts will continue to be made.

In the workplace, urine testing is a common procedure to determine whether a prohibited drug is in the system. The days of having to wait for a sample to be analyzed by a laboratory are gone, although of course labs still do this. Drugs testing companies provide kits where urine samples can be privately and safely taken and they can screen for a number of different drugs at the same time, often bringing results up in minutes. Accuracy levels are high thanks to continuous development.

Using hair for testing will mean the sample going to a laboratory for analysis. Techniques have developed over the years that detect drugs in a hair follicle. As the bloodstream feeds hair, anything being carried can usually be detected. Hair testing is generally considered more effective than analysis of urine.

Oral testing requires a swab to sweep the inside of the mouth, including the tongue, gums and cheek. Colored bands appear in the test area to indicate the presence or otherwise of drugs.

Tests for alcohol will be familiar to drivers, and alcohol testing from Matrix Diagnostics offers easy-to-handle breath and oral testing options to check potential levels of alcohol concentration.

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