Positive = negative

With the oil boom and the rapid increase of population over the last few years, it probably wouldn’t come as any big shock that there are more incidences of crime and other “bigger city” problems. One such issue that has also been on the rise is the increase in drug test results that have been turning up positive, something the Sanford Occupational Health Clinic has noticed.

Jennifer McGregor, director of business operations with Sanford Health, said she took a look at drug test results from 2011 to 2012 and saw a 60-percent increase in positive drug tests, which is consistent with drug test results of marijuana and methamphetamine showing up positive.

The sharp increase in positive results from drug tests is primarily because of the increase in population over the last three years, McGregor explained. There are a lot of jobs here and a lot of people find North Dakota attractive for that reason, she continued. The oil boom could not exactly be pinpointed as a direct cause of failed drug tests, however, as the clinic does not collect industry-specific data. They see positive drug test results across the board, McGregor noted.

There are ways to decrease the rate of positive drug tests and McGregor listed several. Employers need to be aware of drugs being brought into the workplace, she said.

“Employees generally have to work to support their drug addiction,” she said.

Supervisors need to be trained to look for signs and symptoms of drug use in the workplace, as well as have complete guidelines and consequences for someone who is using drugs at work.

“It needs to be taken seriously by all,” she added. What’s more, McGregor said employers and employees need to be educated about drugs in the workplace and be able to readily talk about resources available to help with the person’s drug use issue.

Companies have different reasons to test for drugs. Sometimes a company will test before an employee is hired and may also include random testing later on, McGregor said.

“Employers will sometimes test for reasonable suspicion, after an accident or injury, as follow-up after an accident or injury, or if they’re returning to work after time off,” McGregor explained.

Many occupations require or employ drug testing. People who are drivers with a commercial driver’s license, pipeline or railroad workers, and other companies concerned about drug testing, McGregor said, will typically have to undergo drug testing.

“There will always be low productivity and safety factors, and dollars being lost if (employees) are using drugs,” she noted. American businesses lose over $100 billion a year in employee drug use, McGregor added.

If a person’s test turns up with a positive result, the result gets reported back to the medical review officer, McGregor said. The officer then does an evaluation to determine whether the positive result is true and conducts an interview with the employee to rule out prescription drugs. Then the officer will talk to the employer and see what they do based on their policy, McGregor said.

“It depends on how the policy is written because some places will give a second chance or terminate (the employee) upon confirmation of positive result,” she said.

Specific drugs can be detected in a drug test as well. McGregor said there is a method used, gas chromatography mass spectrometry, that’s like a fingerprint that identifies the specific drug the person is using.

“Typically, we’re seeing meth and marijuana most often in North Dakota,” McGregor said. “But it depends on what area of the U.S. you’re in, because in another area, cocaine could be the drug that most people are using.”

Businesses have higher health care premiums, higher compensation rates from injury and more accidents when employees are using drugs, McGregor said.

“It’s a huge safety factor,” she added.

Sanford Health has occupational health clinics in Minot, Bismarck and Dickinson. People can call the toll free number at 866-310-5222 if they have questions, or if they want to know about Sanford Health’s presence in Minot,

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