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Substance Abuse Effects and Detection


Employers have both a right to expect and an obligation to promote a healthy, safe, and productive workplace by helping to avoid substance abuse. Because the use of alcohol and other drugs by workers can adversely affect these interests, some form of employee drug testing (which can deter as well as detect drug use and facilitate rehabilitation) may be appropriate.

Employee drug-testing is one way you can protect your workplace from the negative effects of alcohol and other drug abuse. A drug-testing program can deter people from coming to work unfit for duty and also discourage alcohol and other drug abusers from joining your organization in the first place.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published a list of commonly abused drugs and their street names, along with intoxication effects and adverse health consequences. The following table shows some of the most frequently abused substances from the list. All of the drugs pose a high potential for addiction.


Drug Name/ Class

Commercial and/or
Street Names

How
Taken

Intoxication
Effects

Adverse Health Consequences

Marijuana Cannabinoid

Dope, pot, joints, grass, reefer, weed, etc.

Smoked, swallowed

Euphoria, slowed thinking and reaction time, confusion, impaired balance and coordination

Cough, frequent respiratory infections; impaired memory and learning; increased heart rate, anxiety; panic attacks

Cocaine
Stimulant

Blow, bump, candy, charlie, coke, crack, rock, snow, toot

 

Snorted, smoked, injected

Increased heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, metabolism; feelings of exhilaration, energy, increased mental alertness

Rapid or irregular heart beat; reduced appetite, weight loss, heart failure, nervousness, insomnia, chest pain, respiratory failure, nausea, abdominal pain, strokes, seizures, headaches, malnutrition, panic attacks

Amphetamines Stimulant

Biphetamine, Dexedrine; bennies, black beauties, crosses, hearts, speed, truck drivers, uppers

 

Swallowed, smoked, injected, snorted

Increased heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism; feelings of exhilaration, energy, increased mental alertness, rapid breathing

Rapid or irregular heart beat; reduced appetite, weight loss, heart failure, nervousness, insomnia, tremor, loss of coordination; irritability, anxiousness, restless-ness, delirium, panic, paranoia, impulsive behavior, aggressive-ness, psychosis

Methampheta-mine
Stimulant

Desoxyn; chalk, crank, crystal, fire, glass, go fast, ice, meth, speed

Snorted, swallowed, smoked, injected

Increased heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism; feelings of exhilaration, energy, increased mental alertness; aggression, violence, psychotic behavior

Rapid or irregular heart beat; reduced appetite, weight loss, heart failure, nervousness, insomnia; memory loss, cardiac and neurological damage; impaired memory and learning

MDMA
Stimulant

Molly, Adam, 

clarity, ecstasy, 

Eve, lover's speed, peace, STP, X, XTC

 

 

Swallowed

Increased heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism; feelings of exhilaration, energy, increased mental alertness; mild hallucinogenic effects, increased tactile sensitivity, empathic feelings

Rapid or irregular heart beat; reduced appetite, weight loss, heart failure, nervousness, insomnia; impaired memory and learning, hyperthermia, cardiac toxicity, renal failure, liver toxicity

Barbiturates
Depressant

Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Phenobarbital; barbs, reds, red birds, phennies, tooies, yellows, yellow jackets

Swallowed, injected

Reduced anxiety; feeling of well-being; lowered inhibitions; slowed pulse and breathing; lowered blood pressure; poor concentration, sedation, drowsiness

Fatigue; confusion; impaired coordination, memory, judgment; depression, unusual excitement, fever, irritability, slurred speech, dizziness, life-threatening withdrawal;
respiratory depression and arrest, death

 

 

Drug Name/ Class
 

Commercial and/or
Street Names

 

How
Taken

 

Intoxication
Effects

Adverse Health Consequences

Benzodiazepines
Depressant

Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium, Xanax; candy, downers, sleeping pills, tranks

Swallowed, injected

Reduced anxiety; feeling of well-being; lowered inhibitions; slowed pulse and breathing; lowered blood pressure; poor concentration, sedation, drowsiness

Fatigue; confusion; impaired coordination, memory, judgment; sedation, drowsiness; dizziness; respiratory depression and arrest, death

Heroin
Narcotic (Opioid)

Diacetyl-morphine; brown sugar, dope, H, horse, junk, skag, skunk, smack, white horse

Injected, snorted, smoked

Pain relief, euphoria, drowsiness, unsteady gait

Nausea, constipation, confusion, sedation, respiratory depression and arrest, tolerance, unconsciousness, coma, death

LSD
Hallucinogen

Lysergic acid diethylamide; acid, blotter, boomers, cubes, microdot, yellow sunshine

Swallowed, absorbed through mouth tissues

Altered states of perception and feeling; nausea; increased body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure; loss of appetite, sleeplessness, numbness, weakness, tremors; persistent mental disorders

Persisting perception disorder (flashbacks)

 

PCP
Dissociative anesthetics

Phencyclidine; angel dust, boat, hog, love boat, peace pill

Smoked, swallowed, injected

Increased heart rate and blood pressure, impaired motor function, possible decrease in blood pressure and heart rate; panic, aggression, violence

Memory loss; numbness; nausea/vomiting; loss of appetite, depression

 

 

Inhalants

 

Solvents (paint thinners, gasoline, glues), gases (butane, propane, aerosol propellants, nitrous oxide), nitrites (isoamyl, isobutyl, cyclohexyl); laughing gas, poppers, snappers, whippets

Inhaled through nose or mouth

 

Stimulation, loss of inhibition; headache; nausea or vomiting; slurred speech, loss of motor coordination; wheezing

 

Unconsciousness, cramps, weight loss, muscle weakness, depression, memory impairment, damage to cardiovascular and nervous systems, sudden death

 

Anabolic steroids

 

 

Anadrol, Oxandrin, Durabolin,
Depo-Testosterone, Equipoise;
roids, juice

Injected, swallowed, applied to skin

 

No intoxication effects

 

Hypertension, blood clotting and cholesterol changes, liver cysts and cancer, kidney cancer, hostility and aggression, acne; in adolescents, premature stoppage of growth; in males, prostate cancer, reduced sperm production, shrunken testicles, breast enlargement; in females, menstrual irregularities, development of beard and other masculine characteristics


Detection Periods

The following chart gives approximate detection periods for each substance by test type. The ranges depend on amount and frequency of use, metabolic rate, body mass, age, overall health, drug tolerance, and urine pH:

SUBSTANCE

BLOOD

SALIVA

URINE

HAIR

BREATH

Alcohol

n/a

unknown

n/a

n/a

6-10 hrs

Amphetamine

unknown

3 days

1-4 days

up to 90 days

n/a

Barbiturates

unknown

unknown

1-21 days

unknown

n/a

Benzodiazepines

unknown

unknown

1-42 days

unknown

n/a

Cannabis (single use)

2-3 days

14 hrs

2-3 days

up to 90 days

n/a

Cannabis (habitual use)

2 weeks

14 hrs

up to 12 wks

up to 90 days

n/a

Cocaine

unknown

1 day

4-5 days

up to 90 days

n/a

Codeine/Morphine

unknown

7-21 hrs

2-4 days

up to 90 days

n/a

Heroin

unknown

unknown

8 hrs

up to 90 days

n/a

Methamphetamine

1-3 days

unknown

3-5 days

up to 90 days

n/a

PCP

1-3 days

3 days

3-7 days

up to 90 days

n/a

While testing is generally reliable, inaccurate results may occur in the absence of rigorous procedural and technical safeguards. In an effort to identify those procedural and technical safeguards, the Department of Health and Human Services has developed and published Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs (Federal Register, Vol. 53, No. 69, 4/44/88). Any employer contemplating a drug-testing program is urged to adhere to these guidelines to assure that employees and applicants are afforded all possible safeguards.




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