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DRUG TESTING THE NIDA 5
Last Updated: 12/11/2017

Drug testing in the United States began in the late 1980s with the testing of certain federal employees and specified DOT regulated occupations. Drug testing guidelines and processes, in these areas exclusively, are established and regulated (by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA, formerly under the direction of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA) require that companies who use professional drivers, specified safety sensitive transportation and/or oil and gas related occupations, and certain federal employers, test them for the presence of certain drugs. These test classes were established decades ago, and include five specific drug groups. They do not account for current drug usage patterns. For example, the tests do not include semi-synthetic opioids, such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, etc., compounds that are highly abused in Africa

  1. Cannabinoids (marijuana, hashish - TEST SPECIFICALLY SCREENS FOR METABOLITE THCCOOH)
  2. Cocaine (cocaine, benzoylecognine, cocaethylene)- TEST SPECIFICALLY SCREENS FOR COCAINE METABOLITE - BE
  3. Amphetamines (amphetamine, methamphetamine)
  4. Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine, 6-AM)
  5. Phencyclidine (PCP)

While SAMHSA/NIDA guidelines only allow labs to report quantitative results for the "NIDA-5" on their official NIDA tests, many drug testing labs and on-site tests also offer a wider or "more appropriate" set of drug screens which may be more reflective of current drug abuse patterns. As noted above, these tests include synthetic pain killers such as Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Restoril) and barbiturates in other drug panels (a "panel" is a predetermined list of tests to run). The confirmation test (usually GCMS, or LC/MS/MS) can tell the difference between chemically similar drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy, and in the absence of detectable amounts of methamphetamine in the sample, the lab will either report the sample as negative or report it as positive for MDMA. What the lab reports to the client depends upon whether MDMA was included in the panel as something to be tested for.

Gamma-hydroxy-butyrate ( GHB) was not routinely tested for in the early 1990s, but due to increasing use, some labs have added it as an optional test. GHB is rare in pre-employment screening, but is commonly checked for in suspected cases of drug overdose, date rape, and post-mortem toxicology tests. Ketamine (Special K) may or may not be tested for, depending upon the preferences of the entity paying for the test, though testing for it is uncommon. In general, the greater the number of drugs tested for, the higher the price of the test, so many employers stick to the NIDA 5 for financial reasons.

Other drugs, such as meperidine (Demerol), fentanyl, propoxyphene, and methadone are not commonly tested for in most pre-employment situations. These drugs are more likely to be included in tests for certain demographic groups (such as healthcare workers, drug rehab patients, etc.)

Hallucinogens other than cannabis and PCP, such as mushrooms ( psilocybin), LSD, and peyote (mescaline) are rarely tested for.
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