Why use an instant drug test device? It’s easy and cheaper!…er…maybe not.

What is my opinion on instant drug testing cups?

My short answer is that there is a time and place for them, but rarely would I recommend that you conduct your entire program on instant testing.  To purchase these cups at $5-10 per cup and do the collection yourself, it does seem to save quite a bit of money.

However, what happens on the back end is where things get expensive…

First, all drug testing devices you use must be FDA approved, which sounds pretty reasonable (in the state of Oklahoma).  For urine cups, that’s pretty easy to find.  What most people don’t know is that for these testing devices, to get FDA approval, they only have to have 80% accuracy!  That means 20% of your results could be inaccurate.

Typically, we don’t see 20% of the cups reporting inaccurately, but we do see instant cups that do report inaccurate results.  My estimation of inaccurate results is probably closer to the 8-10% mark, but that is purely an estimation.

That means, from my estimation..almost one in ten cups will report a false “positive” test.  If you were interested in conducting a completely fair drug testing program, you would want to get a confirmation on ANY positive test from an instant cup.  And, if you’re using a provider like Lobdock or any other drug testing company, the state of Oklahoma requires that you get a lab confirmation of any positive.

So, here’s where it gets expensive.  If you’re doing 10 instant random drug tests and one of them reports as a positive (which is statistically normal) and requires a lab confirmation…at that point, you have to decide if the employee who has the positive instant test should work while the test is being confirmed.

Many companies choose to not have their employee working during the confirmation process, which normally takes a couple days, but it can take up to a week or longer.  If you then end up getting a negative back from the lab, then you have to possibly pay that employee for the time he/she wasn’t working.

If you’re paying employees $10 or under per hour, it could be a wash on paying employees not working and the cost savings of doing instant testing.  If you pay more than that, you’re likely to lose money on instant testing in the long run.  Not to mention, how do you think your employee feels while he/she is not working for those few days when they know they have not done any illegal drugs?  Sure, they get paid time off, but to be banned from work…paid or not…is not good for morale.

If you are a company that uses instant testing and you conduct your testing yourself, you should know that these testing cups and devices are very sensitive to temperature and can go bad if they get too hot or if they freeze.  If this happens, there is usually no indicator on the testing devices to alert you that the batch is ruined.  Please keep this in mind particularly in the Summertime if you have your drug testing person carrying these cups around in their vehicle.
I suggest disposing of any instant testing devices that get left in a car overnight or in a parked car in the heat for over an hour.

When is instant testing appropriate?

I still believe that instant testing is appropriate at some times.

1.  If you have an employee who needs to begin work immediately, but you require a negative drug test in order for them to start work, an instant test may be appropriate in this case.  However, you can NEVER use instant tests for a DOT mandated program, and you should be prepared to delay the hiring process if you get a positive instant test and wait for a lab confirmation.

2.  If you have a post-accident situation where your employee is not injured to the extent that they need to take time off, and you want to get them back to work…you can do an instant test to “clear” the employee and get them back on the job.

Bottom line…the instant test is a good screening tool to help you move quicker when you get a negative result.  I highly suggest you always allow the lab to verify positive results to assure that you are making a fair employment decision.

What is your experience with instant testing?  Anyone out there have any thoughts on using instant testing?

Click here to see how Lobdock can help you save money and headaches with proper implementation of drug testing policies that are smart, efficient, and effective.  Or call us at 1-855-753-7843!


About the Author Susan Lobsinger

Susan is founder and President of Lobdock Impairment Detection, a full-service, mobile drug testing and contractor compliance management provider. Lobdock provides safety managers with the objective data they need to make safety decisions that make a difference in the lives, safety, and health of their employees who work in safety sensitive positions.

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