In a BPO company, a company nurse reported to their company’s human resource that one of their employees is positive to their annual random drug test at work. Their HR/workers representatives, their company doctor and their company nurse discussed the case.
Was this the first case of the employee? Was the employee eligible for treatment and rehabilitation? Was this ground for termination?
Upon finalizing their decision, they found out that is the first case of the employee and spoke with him for assistance for referral, treatment and rehabilitation to any of DOH-accredited centers.
Many employers will encounter a drug-positive employee one time or the other and we should know how to handle this scenario in their offices.
Here are the things that the management needs to know:
What is Drug-Free Workplace Policy?
It is one of the required health policies at work to ensure that employees are safe and free from using illegal drugs.
In line with the government’s campaign against drug addiction, the Department of Labor and Employment is always reminding the employers to strictly comply with the Department Order 53-03 or the Guidelines for the Implementations of a Drug-Free Workplace Policies and Programs for the Private Sector.
What is Substance Abuse?
According to the World Health Organization, substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drug which can result to dependence syndrome.
It is developed after repeated substance use and resulted to following:
- a strong desire to take the drug,
- difficulties in controlling its use,
- persisting in its use despite harmful consequences,
- a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations,
- increased tolerance, and
- physical withdrawal state
Unfortunately, the substance users are not only prone to dependence. If they inject drugs, they are also at higher risk for transmitting HIV and hepatitis B and C because they share needles and other supplies used to prepare drugs, like cotton, cookers, and water. These things may have blood in them that can carry these kind of infections.
Who will be part of the team responsible for it?
A team of trained staff shall form part of an Assessment Team which shall address all aspects of drug abuse prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. They are the clinic team, HR Manager and employer/employees representatives of the company.
What is detected in the drug test?
Employers have 2 options on what they want to require for their applicants/employees during drug test. It could be a 5-Panel tests or 10-Panel drug test.
5-Panel Tests detect the following substances:
Amphetamines. These are stimulants that are taken in tablet form, snorted in powder form or smoked and are extremely addictive which can cause sleep disorders, depression and suicidal behavior, violent mood swings, and heart attacks.
Cocaine. It is an extremely addictive substance and when snorted or smoked in crystalline “crack” form, it induces euphoria and manic behavior.
Opiates. It can be eaten; smoked, snorted or injected. Natural opium, codeine, and heroin are highly addictive narcotics. Overdoses can be lethal.
Phencycladine (PCP). Highly unpredictable “angel dust” can induce hallucinations, paranoia, and violent outbursts.
Marijuana (THC). It can be smoked, “vaped,” or eaten, pot which slows reflexes and reaction times, and can reduce attention span and alertness.
10-Panel Test is more comprehensive and includes the following substances in addition to the substances included in the 5-panel test:
Barbiturates. It is also known as “downers” or sedative-hypnotics. Overdoses are lethal because users’ bodies adjust to them over time, so that continually higher dosages (eventually approaching lethal levels) are needed to feel their effects.
Benzodiazepines. A family of tranquilizers that includes Xanax and Valium, these drugs are among the most commonly prescribed depressant medications and are habit-forming and widely abused.
Methadone. A synthetic, narcotic painkiller, it is used medically for pain relief and also as a replacement for morphine and heroin in addicts trying to wean off those drugs.
Methaqualone. This barbiturate-like drug depresses the brain and is highly addictive. Abusers may appear drunk, with slurred speech and unsteadiness or even incapacitation.
Propoxyphene. It is also known by the trade name Darvon, which is used to treat mild to moderate pain, it can cause heart damage, even at therapeutic doses.
Additional panel tests can be ordered at many labs to test for specific substances, including opioids such as Oxycontin and Oxycodone, which behave similarly to opiates in the body (and share their addictive nature), but are not detected by standard opiate tests.
It is important to take note that the results of Drug Test are strictly confidential.
How is drug testing program for officers and employees during employment done?
· Drug testing shall only be done by the Department of Health’s accredited Drug Testing centers.
· 2 steps are followed – screening tests and confirmatory test if screening test turned out to be positive.
· The cost of the tests must be shouldered by the employer.
· A drug test is valid for a year, but an employee may be asked for additional drug testing in any of the following cases:
1. After work-related accidents, including near miss
2. Following treatment or rehabilitation to establish fitness for returning to work or resumption of job
3. In the light of the clinical findings and/or upon recommendation of the assessment team.
What happens if the confirmatory test turned out to be positive?
· The company’s Assessment Team shall evaluate the results and determine the level of care and administrative interventions that can be extended to the concerned employee.
· They shall determine whether the employee would need referral for treatment and/or rehabilitation in a DOH accredited center.
· Referral for treatment and rehabilitation is only given to those who are diagnosed to drug dependence for the first time and those who turn to the Assessment Team for assistance.
· After rehabilitation, the Assessment Team, in consultation with the head of the rehabilitation center, shall evaluate the status of the drug dependent employee and recommend to the employer the resumption of the employee’s job if he/she poses no serious danger to his/her co-employees and/or the workplace.
· If the employee, on the other hand, has a record of a repeated use even after ample opportunity for treatment and rehabilitation, s/he shall be dealt with the corresponding penalties under the Act and its IRR.
· If the employee’s work performance has already been affected with her/his repeated drug use, this will amount to serious misconduct which may be ground for termination.
What happens if the employee refuses to take drug test?
The employee can lose his/her employment if one refuses to undergo the company’s random drug testing because it carries the same consequences as a positive result. It may amount to Gross Insubordination and will be a just cause for termination under Labor Code.
Why is there drug testing during pre-employment?
It is a company’s recruitment policy that an applicant is required to undergo Drug-Testing prior employment in order to ensure that the company is a drug-free workplace.
If found and confirmed to be positive for drugs, the company can turn down the job applicant.
During the on boarding process in one company in Metro Manila, a lawyer was interviewed and took his pre-employment exam. After a couple of weeks, his result showed that he was positive to Amphetamine and Marijuana. Of course, he denied his usage but his blood shot eyes could not pass to the clinical eyes of the company’s clinic team. He insisted to submit another drug test because it must be false positive but the human resource manager did not allow him and cancelled his job offer.
Remember the 2 steps of drug test?
If the confirmatory test which is the (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry or GC-MS) is already positive, this lessens the chance of false positive and almost reducing it to zero. Hence, there is no need for a repeat test.
Drug testing during pre-employment ensures that no drug user can really enter in the workplace.
What are the Drug-Free Workplace Policies and Programs?
· Drug abuse prevention and control advocacy, education and training of workers on prevention, clinical assessment and counseling.
· Drug Testing Programs – Pre-employment Drug Test, Company’s Annual Random Drug Test etc
· Treatment, Rehabilitation and Referral of the drug-positive employee to a DOH Accredited center.
· Monitoring and Evaluation of the drug-free workplace policies and programs in coordination with the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Committee.
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