ODPAC (Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance) recently released updates for drug-testing procedures and policies regarding the DOT (Department of Transportation). According to the reports outlined by the IML (Illinois Municipal League), changes in what constitutes a positive drug test will go into effect May 2010.

The changes are primarily related to the cut-off levels of certain drugs. Under testing procedures, when a urine specimen is collected and tested, there are “allowable” levels of substances that can be in the system without triggering a positive result for an initial screening and another level of the substance for what is known as a confirmation. For instance, the current testing levels for amphetamines are 1000 ng/mL for the screening and 500 ng/mL for the confirmation. The new levels for screening and confirmation will be cut in half (i.e., 500 ng/mL and 250 ng/mL respectively). Cocaine’s levels will also be cut dramatically (from 300 ng/mL and 150 ng/mL to 150 ng/mL and 100 ng/mL).

In addition, MDMA (al so known as Ecstasy, E, X and XTC) will now be added to the panel of substances tested for in the DOT. It produces emotional, social, psychedelic and stimulant effects and has a tendency to increase intimacy among people and decrease feelings of fear and anxiety. MDMA has become a common recreational drug for younger adults in recent years. In screening and testing for MDMA, there will not be a sixth panel; rather, the substance will be screened for and confirmed under the amphetamine panel.

What does all of this mean for the employer? Obviously, the risks of positive drug tests increase dramatically. Dru Hauter, medical director for Illinois Work Injury Resource Center (IWIRC) in Peoria, states, “What we have to remember is that a ‘negative’ drug test does not mean that drugs are not present. It simply means that they are not at such a level that impairment is likely for the person being tested. In reducing the screening and confirmation levels, ODPAC is increasing the likelihood of identifying impaired drivers. From a practical standpoint, the reductions of testing levels will likely increase the number of drivers who test positive and thus, reduce the number of impaired drivers on the roadways.” iBi