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Company Alcohol Tests

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Alcohol tests are increasing in popularity by companies, organizations, and institutions throughout the United States.

Indeed, an increasing number of companies, organizations, and other workplaces are employing alcohol screening tests and random alcohol testing as part of their workplace drug and alcohol testing programs.

Why are more and more alcohol tests being developed and implemented in American society?

To find out the answer to this question and more, please continue reading to discover reasons for this increase.

Demographics, Alcohol Abuse, and the Demand for Alcohol Testing

According to current United States demographic statistics, alcohol abuse accounts for approximately 67 percent of all the substance abuse complaints in U.S. workplaces.

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In addition, the use or abuse of alcohol is associated with almost half of all industrial accidents in the United States.

As a consequence, there is a growing demand for more effective alcohol detection and testing methods in companies and organizations throughout the country.

In a word, an increasing number of Human Resource directors in various companies and organizations are seeking more detailed information about the different types of company alcohol tests so that they can procure and implement a cost-effective and accurate method of employee alcohol testing that is part of their overall drug and alcohol testing program.

Due to the millions of people who continue to abuse alcohol, moreover, alcohol testing in American workplaces will continue and probably become even more mainstream and widespread.

Alcohol Screening Test Types

There are five primary types of alcohol tests available to companies: urine alcohol tests, blood alcohol tests (also called blood tests for alcohol and alcohol blood tests), saliva alcohol tests, breathalyzer alcohol tests (also known as breath alcohol tests and alcohol breath tests), and alcohol hair tests.

Hair testing for alcohol is fairly recent due to the fact that until 2008, these tests could not detect alcohol.

As a result, until very recently, hair tests have been used almost exclusively for testing drugs other than alcohol.

The Fundamental 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

Also known as alcohol blood tests and blood tests for alcohol, blood alcohol tests 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 such as breathalyzer tests 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.

Hair Alcohol Tests

Hair tests were not used for alcohol testing until 2008. Up until this time, they were used mainly for drug testing.

Now that hair tests have become a valid way to identify both drugs and alcohol, however, they will probably become more common as an increasing number of organizations, companies, and institutions upgrade and implement their drug and alcohol testing policies and procedures.

Hair Alcohol Tests have the following characteristics:

  • Hair alcohol testing is currently many times more costly than urine tests

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

  • Until the past year or so, since they could not detect alcohol, hair tests were used almost exclusively for the detection of drugs other than alcohol

  • Hair alcohol tests detect alcohol use over a longer period of time than any other type of alcohol testing protocol (for instance, hair tests for alcohol can provide accurate test results regarding alcohol use going back months or even years)

  • They require a sample of hair approximately the diameter of a pencil and about 1.5 inches long

  • Hair tests can accurately detect alcohol, drugs, and combinations of both

  • No adulterants have been found that can beat hair tests for alcohol. Plus, the risk is minimized due to the fact that every collection is directly and easily observed

  • They provide accurate results for non-drinkers, social drinkers, and heavy drinkers

  • Hair alcohol testing reduces the need for recurring random alcohol testing.

Alcohol Hair Tests Pros

  • Hair alcohol tests have a relatively long window of detection (for example, hair tests for alcohol can provide accurate test results pertaining to alcohol use going back months or even years)

  • They offer greater stability (that is, they do not deteriorate)

  • Hair alcohol testing provides accurate results for non-drinkers, social drinkers, and heavy drinkers

  • Hair alcohol tests are a non-intrusive form of alcohol testing

  • They provide convenient shipping and storage, since they do not require refrigeration

  • Hair alcohol tests offer a collection procedure that is not invasive or embarrassing

  • They are almost impossible to adulterate

  • Hair tests detect the combined use of alcohol and other drugs

Alcohol Hair Tests Cons

  • Hair tests for alcohol are relatively expensive

  • They are so recent that many, if not the vast majority of U.S. employers are unaware of their existence

  • Hair alcohol tests will not work on hair that is less than 1/2" to 1" long

  • They will not work if the person shaves his or her head

  • Hair tests for alcohol will not work on body hair and therefore only work with scalp hair

  • No matter how long the hair is, hair alcohol tests cannot be performed on a single hair

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.

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Conclusion: Company Alcohol Tests

Organizational and company alcohol tests are increasing in popularity throughout the United States.

Indeed, an increasing number of companies and organizations are employing alcoholism screening tests and random alcohol testing as part of their workplace drug and alcohol testing programs.

In short, an increasing number of HR directors in various companies and organizations are seeking more detailed information about the different types of alcohol tests so that they can procure and implement an accurate and a cost-effective way to test their employees for alcohol abuse.

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