|EMIT (Enzyme multiplied immunoassay technique) This is the most widely
used test by employers because of its low cost. More than 95%
of employers use this as an initial test. Manufactured by the
Syva company, its accuracy is so suspect that the company itself
recommends a more refined GC/MS test to confirm positive results.
Because many employers don't want to spend the $100 to $150
dollars charged for the GC/MS, employees have been fired on
the results of the EMIT test alone. Courts have ruled that
repetition of the EMIT test does not constitute confirmation
of a positive drug finding.
This test does not measure drugs in the urine directly. Rather, a reagent
is added to the urine sample to bind with the metabolite of the drug being
searched for. Then a second reagent is added to decrease the enzyme activity
of the first. The result is read by a light sensing instrument which measures
the photometric spectrum. The problem is reagents combine with substances
similar to drug metabolites. Hence Advil, Sinex or other medicines may
be similar enough to certain illegal drugs to cause a positive reaction.
|RIA This test is somewhat more
sophisticated and more expensive than the EMIT test. Produced
by Roche Diagnostics, Inc. under the name Abuscreen, this test
is occasionally used by the armed forces. This more complicated
procedure involves adding a radioactive antigen to the sample
of urine and analyzing it by a machine. Mistakes come from
poor calibration. The manufacturer states "a positive test
result should be confirmed by a...GC/MS ".
|TLC This stands for thin layer
chromatography. The procedure involves adding solvent to urine
to extract drugs and then comparing color spots on a TLC plate
to that of a standard. TLC relies on the subjective judgment
of a technician and requires considerable skill and training.
False positives result from mis-interpretations. It is not
GC/MS Gas Chromatography/Mass
Spectrometry. In this, the most sophisticated test, a sample
of urine is injected into the machine. The urine separates
as it travels from the injection port to the detector and
as the sample emerges from the gas chromatograph, it is ionized
by electron bombardment. The resulting positive ion mass
fragments are read by the mass spectrometer. The results
are produced on a computer print out.
While in theory the GC/MS test is excellent, in practice, errors creep
in. Temperature, pressure, and storage time of samples must be rigidly
controlled. Expensive environmental controls and immaculate cleaning
practices must be observed. Too often, commercial labs have an economic
incentive to rush testing, cleaning and maintenance. Mistakes most commonly
happen when the highly sensitive machine is not thoroughly cleaned. Your
sample could easily be contaminated by small traces from the previous
Bobby Gladd a respected laboratory quality assurance analyst reports
documentation of false reports of GC/MS tests in the environmental field.
Researcher Gladd believes that many results could be challenged in court
for faulty procedure. For those considering a legal challenge to false
reports Gladd's firm might be for hire. His number appears under "useful
|Hair and Saliva Tests have
received considerable publicity. In theory a snippet of hair
near the nape of your neck could indicate illegal drug usage
for the last several months. The accuracy of these tests has
not been determined. The cost of hair tests and saliva tests
have been prohibitive. Because employers are sticking with
the inexpensive EMIT test, these tests have not been adopted
and are not a matter of concern at the present.
|Automated Tests Both the EM/2
and the FIT tests represent the next generation if tests which
measure the rapid eye movement of the pupil. The makers claim
a "97%" accuracy rate. This means 3,000 out of every hundred
thousand workers would be falsely fired from their job. Problems
with eye or nerve abnormalities raise questions about test
accuracy. Makers claim they could video each test to guarantee
its validity which raises difficult "chain of custody" issues.
|The SEDI test relies on 200
computer generated questions concerning rapidly changing numbers.
The employee must spot numbers outside a given range. This
is an impairment test. Fatigue, emotional distractions, and
even caffeine might create failures. Currently none of these
factors are illegal in the work place. The ONLINE assay utilizing
a micropartical technology claims a better than 98% accuracy
rate. While these tests are pushed by various manufacturers,
high cost remains a prohibitive factor. As we all know automated
systems, like check outs in the super market, are constantly
plaguedby errors. This automated technology suggests giving
the employer constant, daily, twice a day, or more surveillance
|Overall testing problems As
drug testing has become a growth industry many "labs" which
are nothing more than marketing firms have sprung up. While
Federal jobs require the use of NIDA certified labs, private
employers can choose whomever offers the best price.
In practice , control of samples is often careless. There are numerous
cases of samples being mislabeled or mixed up. Increasingly, employers
are not showing workers their actual lab reports. Without a lab report
you might never know if a careful chain of custody was recorded. You could
be the victim of another person's urine sample, as was heavyweight champion,
Bone Crusher Smith. Smith's reputation was blackened by a positive drug
test after his title fight with Mike Tyson. Almost a week later, an investigation
reported that Smith's sample had been mixed up with that of another fighter.
The mistake received little press play. If this happened to a celebrated
heavyweight title fighter, what mistakes are made with the average working
Many employees of local labs are ill-paid and poorly trained. Sanitation
and maintenance standards are left up to the lab. Restaurant kitchens are
more closely inspected than these laboratories which issue test results
that cost people their jobs, their standing in the community, and their
Void Where Prohibited