Drug Testing for Opioids Expected to Increase after President Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a National Public Health Emergency

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On October 26, 2017, President Donald Trump officially declared “the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law” and directed “all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight the opioid crisis” during remarks in the East Room of the White House.

President Trump said more than 11 million Americans abuse prescription opioids and the United States uses “more opioid pills per person than any other country by far in the world.”  He also said “opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999 and now account for the majority of fatal drug overdoses.”

President Trump – who said “we lost at least 64,000 Americans to overdoses” last year – used the event to sign a presidential memorandum “Combating the National Drug Demand and Opioid Crisis” for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies. The complete text of President Trump’s speech is here.

Even with President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, employers hoping to avoid hiring opioid-addicted workers through drug testing in the workplace may not be detecting the most abused prescription drugs as part of their current substance abuse testing program.

In September 2017, ESR News reported several drug testing experts were interviewed about opioids for the Talent Economy article ‘What Can Employers Do to Fight the Opioid Epidemic?’ including Dawn Standerwick, Vice President of Strategic Growth at Employment Screening Resources® (ESR).

Standerwick – who has extensive knowledge of drug testing – said in the article that employers “need to recognize that there has been a surge in drug use, prescription drug use in particular,” and that often drug testing panels selected by employers may not even test for the most commonly abused substances.

According to Standerwick, the majority of employer testing programs encompass a standard 5, 9, or 10 panel test which does not include synthetic and semi-synthetic opiates like oxycodone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone (brand names include OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet).

Standerwick explained that employers mistakenly assume that because they are opiates, they will be detected using a standard panel. In fact, the standard panel tests for codeine and morphine (naturally occurring opiates), not synthetic versions. In order to detect synthetic opiates, an expanded opiates panel must be added.

Standerwick also suggested that “business leaders should take proactive measures” with drug testing. Even if companies have a zero-tolerance policy, she explained that just having the education component as part of their program, educating employees, and taking a proactive stance is helpful.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) – which advances science on drug use and addiction – defines opioids as including “the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and legally prescribed pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, any many others.”

Statistics from the NIDA opioid crisis webpage reveal more than 90 Americans die of an opioid overdoes every day, more than 33,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2015, and the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is $78.5 billion a year.

ESR Drug Testing Can Help Combat Opioid Crisis in Workplace

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) is not your average background screening company and we do not plan on becoming one. Contact ESR today to learn about our drug testing services for opioids by calling toll free at 888.999.4474 or by visiting www.esrcheck.com. People Matter. Make Good Choices.

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