Drug Testing: Are We Asking the Right Questions? NO!

Let’s Ask The Right Question Regarding Impairment

© 2018 Leonard I. Frieling, Lafayette, Colorado

THC and Driving, Drug Free Workplace, Drug Testing, Impairment

People are getting arrested, convicted, and fired or not hired because they have failed a urine test for drug including cannabis.

We are asking the wrong questions. We are looking at chemistry from blood, breath, urine and saliva. From the results we are putting people in jail, refusing to hire them, and firing them.  Whether it is on-the-job or on the road, the question we really need answered is this. “Is this individual too impaired for the task at hand?” We don’t want drunk drivers on the road, and we don’t want workplace injuries and errors. The goal is SAFETY and not use or non-use of specific drugs.

The causes of potential impairment include drugs of many types, alcohol, being tired, and more. These potentially impairing things can come in widely varying combinations. Trying to distill the detection of impairment down to blood chemistry addressing a very short list of impairing influences is simply impossible at this time.

The questions and the solutions must address performance. Does an individual have sufficiently fast reaction time to drive safely? On the job, is their performance up to the standards of their personal baseline testing and the demands of the job?

We as a society have a compelling interest in whether or not an individual is too impaired to perform a range of potentially dangerous tasks, including driving. Rather than giving lip service to marijuana detection, the legitimate and important question is whether or not this particular individual is too impaired for the task at hand.

Until now the question has been answered by a blood, urine or saliva testing. This approach is antiquated and scientifically meaningless. It does not identify impairment. What is critically important is the actual performance of the individual at the time they are driving or working. This may or may not be influenced by an individual’s blood chemistry.

Currently a number of people are working on apps which look at performance issues such as balance and reaction time. Research is extensive on the potentially impairing effects of numerous drugs including cannabis. My Canary was extant a number of years ago, and others such as DRUID are available on the app stores. The latest research confirms that while alcohol and impairment go hand-in-hand, with blood levels tracking degree of impairment, that is not true for cannabis, cocaine, and other substances. Standard Field Sobriety Testing and Drug Recognition Evaluator have proven to be fairly useless as a scientific indicator of impairment, with alcohol impairment being the possible exception.

Short term memory is another metric easily tested in the work environment as well as at a traffic stop. It has been incorporated in some apps as one item for testing. For employment hiring and firing, performance testing can be based upon the individual’s pre-set “baseline,” their sober standard. Different jobs require different levels of performance.

We want safe roads and safe workplaces. We want to minimize waste, damage, and injury, while maximizing safety. We cannot do that with chemistry. We can do that with performance-based testing.