Federal Employees Should Prepare for New Mandatory Opioid Drug Testing

New mandatory drug testing guidelines went into effect at the start of October to test for opioids that will affect a significant number of federal employees.

New federal guidelines for federal workplace drug testing went into effect on October 1 that provide authority to test for four new opioids in mandatory drug tests.

The four drugs are oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone and are commonly referred to as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, Dilaudid, etc.

The new mandatory drug testing guidelines were announced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The new guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs using Urine (UrMG) affect all federal employees in a testing designated position, which is defined by each agency’s Drug-Free Workplace Program.

According to SAMHSA, this amounts to about 400,000 federal employees in testing designated positions, frequently occupying positions with public health, public safety and national security responsibilities.

Employees seeking more information should contact their federal agency or refer to their agency’s Drug Free Workplace Program plan. They can also contact the Drug Free Workplace Program (DFWP) Helpline 1-800-967-5752.

These four opioids were added to the standard testing panel because data indicates that although they are prescribed, they are the prescription pain medications that are most frequently used without medical authority. However, under the revised Mandatory Guidelines, positive drug testing results that have a legitimate medical explanation (e.g., supported by a valid prescription), as determined by a Medical Review Officer (MRO), will not be reported to federal agencies.

“Revising the Mandatory Guidelines has taken a tremendous amount of coordination across stakeholders and agencies, over a period of several years,” said Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “We felt it necessary to make these revisions because of advances in science and technology and because of the increased misuse of prescription opioids.”

The revised guidelines are part of a push by the Trump Administration to crack down on opioid abuse. President Trump issued an executive order in March establishing a commission to combat what it referred to as the “opioid crisis,” noting that the drugs were responsible for over 50,000 deaths in 2015 alone.

The Labor Department also recently announced it was taking steps to begin monitoring federal employees’ prescription usage of opioids.

SAMHSA has provided additional guidelines and a list of frequently asked questions about the new drug testing guidelines on its website.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.