Company Alcohol Tests

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As a result of increasing monetary losses due to alcohol-related accidents and "sick days," an increasing number of company alcohol tests are being implemented by employers throughout the United States.

Stated differently, a number of companies and organizations are utilizing alcohol screening tests and random alcohol tests as part of their employee drug and alcohol testing programs.

The Primary Alcohol Test Types

There are five primary types of alcohol tests available to companies:

  • Urine alcohol tests

  • Blood alcohol tests

  • Saliva alcohol tests

  • Breath alcohol tests (also called breathalyzer alcohol tests)

  • Hair alcohol tests

Until 2008, hair testing could only detect drugs and not alcohol. Please click here for more information about Hair Tests For Alcohol.

The Basic Characteristics of Urine Alcohol Tests

Urine Alcohol Tests have the following characteristics:

  • They are the least expensive of the alcohol testing methods.

  • They can be used at home, for instance, by parents, though lab verification is required for accurate results.

  • They are considered an intrusive method of testing.

  • They can be affected by abstaining from drinking for a period of time before the test.

  • They detect alcohol ingestion mainly within the past week, or longer with regular drinking.

  • They are often temperature tested to assure sample integrity.

  • They indicate the presence of alcohol in a person's system, but it takes up to 2 hours for the alcohol to show up in urine.

Urine Alcohol Tests Pros

  • They have a high assurance of reliable results.

  • They are relatively inexpensive.

  • They provide the most flexibility in testing different drugs, including alcohol and nicotine.

  • They are the most likely of all drug-testing methods to withstand legal challenge.

Urine Alcohol Tests Cons

  • The specimen can be adulterated, substituted, or diluted.

  • They have a limited window of detection (typically 1 to 5 days).

  • They are considered as invasive or embarrassing form of testing.

  • They present a biological hazard when the specimens are handled and shipped to the lab.

  • They indicate the presence of alcohol in a person's system, but it takes up to 2 hours for the alcohol to show up in urine.

  • A positive urine test does not necessarily mean the person was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the test. Rather, it detects and measures the use of alcohol within the previous day or so.

Blood Alcohol Tests

Alcohol blood tests are also called blood tests for alcohol and blood alcohol tests and have the following characteristics:

  • They are the most accurate method for testing a person's blood alcohol content

  • They are the most expensive method to testing a person's blood alcohol content.

  • They are the most intrusive method for testing BAC.

  • Due mainly to their high cost and to their intrusiveness, blood tests are the least common method for testing a person's BAC.

Saliva Alcohol Tests

Saliva alcohol tests detect the presence of alcohol in the saliva, and are a relatively good approximation of blood alcohol content (BAC). Due to the fact that the concentration of alcohol in saliva is very likely to be similar to the BAC that is in the blood, saliva is the preferred alcohol testing method.

Saliva Tests have the following characteristics:

  • They are slightly more expensive than urine testing, but less than hair or blood testing

  • They are a relatively non-intrusive method of drug testing

  • They are becoming more common compared to the other methods of testing

  • They are easy to administer but require lab processing for accuracy

  • They detect use primarily within the past day or so

  • They can detect more recent drug use than other testing methods

  • They have no nationally accepted cutoff concentrations or standards for detection. This makes the results more dependent on the specific product employed and could make results less-reliable and/or acceptable for legal considerations

  • They are more reliable for the detection of methamphetamine and opiates and less reliable for THC or cannabinoids

Saliva Alcohol Tests Pros

The following list represents the positive aspects of saliva drug tests:

  • They provide samples that are acquired under direct observation.

  • They present a minimal risk of tampering.

  • They spare patients the discomfort of repeated vein punctures.

  • They are non-invasive.

  • They present no risk of infection, thrombosis, or anemia.

  • They present lower total testing costs since no special staff training is required for collection.

  • They provide for samples that can be collected easily in almost any environment.

  • They can detect alcohol use.

  • They reflect recent drug use.

Saliva Alcohol Tests Cons

The following list represents the negative aspects of saliva drug tests:

  • They present some detection limitation since drugs and drug metabolites do not remain in the saliva as long as they do in the urine.

  • They are less efficient than other testing methods in detecting marijuana use.

  • They provide a relatively short window of detection, approximately 10 to 24 hours.

Breath Alcohol Tests

Breath alcohol tests are also known breathalyzer alcohol tests and have the following characteristics:

  • They do not directly measure blood alcohol concentration or content.

  • They estimate blood alcohol concentration or content indirectly by measuring the amount of alcohol in one's breath.

  • They not only detect the ethyl alcohol found in alcohol beverages, but also in other substances that have a similar molecular structure.

  • They can result in false BAC readings caused from cell phones, police radios, electrical interference, moisture, dirt, and tobacco smoke.

  • They can result in false BAC readings from substances or compounds found in gasoline, paint removers, cleaning fluids, celluloid, and lacquers.

  • They can lead to false BAC results from blood, vomit, or alcohol present in the person's mouth.

  • They can result in false BAC readings due to a person's breathing rate caused by vigorous exercise, hyperventilation, or a person holding one's breath.

  • They can result in false BAC readings if law enforcement personnel fail to use the breathalyzers properly or fail to properly maintain and re-calibrate the units when necessary.

While Alcohol is not part of the standard "NIDA 5" drug test, it is not uncommon for organizations to test for alcohol in certain situations. It is, for instance, less common in pre-employment tests, but is frequently used for parole testing or for random on-the-job testing, especially for jobs that involve high safety precautions.

Workplace Testing Options

Workplace drug and alcohol testing can be undertaken for a multitude of reasons. The following represents some of the more common types of testing:

  • Pre-employment testing. Job applicants are tested prior to employment.

  • Internal transfer testing. Employees applying for new positions are tested, particularly when moving from a "non-safety" to a "safety-critical" position.

  • Post-accident testing. Employees involved in any significant accident or incident are tested immediately to identify whether drugs or alcohol were a factor.

  • Reasonable grounds testing. Employees are tested when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting drug or alcohol use.

  • Random or periodic testing. Employees are tested on a random, unannounced basis.

  • Post-treatment testing. Testing of individual employees as part of a rehabilitation program in order to measure progress. On return to work, employees are randomly tested over a 12-24 month period to detect relapses.

Conclusion: Company Alcohol Tests

Due to the number of instances of alcohol-related injuries, accidents, and the loss of "person days," company alcohol tests are increasing in popularity throughout the United States. That is, an increasing number of organizations and companies are implementing alcohol screening tests and random alcohol testing as part of their workplace drug and alcohol testing programs.

In a word, an increasing number of Human Resource directors in numerous companies and organizations are searching for more detailed information about the various types of alcohol tests so that they can purchase and implement a reliable and cost-effective method of testing their employees for alcohol abuse.

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