Tox Tuesday: U.S. law gives 60 days for new regulations on oral fluid and hair drug testing

A new act signed into effect by U.S. President Donald Trump in late October aims to combat the opioid crisis with a variety of provisions that affect everything from packaging to telemedicine, including one that has been long backed by the trucking industry.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 for the first time addresses hair and oral fluid testing for illegal drug usage, directing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to report its plan for establishing hair and oral fluid testing guidelines within 60 days.

Previously, U.S. law acknowledged only urine testing, so trucking companies needed to carry out urine tests on new and randomly tested drivers. This meant that even if a company wanted to rely on another testing method, like hair testing, federal requirements mandated that they still carry out urine testing in addition to other forms.

Under the new law, the Department of Health and Human Services has 60 days to report on the status for hair testing guidelines and a schedule for their completion — same for oral fluid testing. The law’s language also addresses false positives and situations where a person might not have used drugs but has been exposed to them. The Department will also be required to explain why there’s been a delay in implementing guidelines, which the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 intended to cover.

“Our data show that urine exams are missing as many as 90% of all opioid and illegal drug abusers who are applying for work as a truck driver,” Lane Kidd of The Trucking Alliance told FreightWaves. “That’s a danger to the public and a risk to motor carriers. The trucking industry has an opioid crisis and we must reform the system to make sure that opioid abusers are not operating large trucks on the nation’s highways.”

A key part of this is that until very recently, oxycodone wasn’t screened for on mandatory Department of Transportation urine screenings for the trucking industry. For years, the screenings focused on the “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 5” drugs: cocaine, amphetamines, PCP, THC and other morphine-based substances like heroin. The testing of some synthetic opioids (not including fentanyl) was added at the beginning of 2018.

Why hair or oral fluid testing?

All types of drug tests have their pros and cons, and there are plenty of reasons why some might choose hair or oral fluid testing over other formats, including:

  • Hair has a long detection window of about 90 days, as opposed to urine’s average of two to three-day period. Oral fluid has a shorter average detection window of about 12–50 hours, depending on the target substance.
  • Hair and oral fluid samples are easy to collect — no need for bathrooms or medical facilities (as is the case for blood drug tests).
  • Hair and oral fluid are difficult to adulterate because sample collection can easily be observed, whereas there’s a booming market for synthetic urine to cheat drug tests.

Neogen is a leader in providing tests to detect a wide variety of drugs of abuse and their metabolites, including tests for urine, blood, hair and oral fluid.

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