Fentanyl Testing Comes to Employee Drug Screening

For nearly 20 years, the United States has faced an opioid crisis that began with over-prescribing powerful painkillers. Today, one of the most potent prescription drugs is a black market substance, causing more than a hundred thousand overdose deaths a year. Fentanyl continues to flow into the country in huge volumes from foreign drug cartels that can produce large quantities. The fentanyl epidemic is now also impacting employee drug screening.

As more states legalize marijuana in various forms and enact protections for workers, companies must take a close look at how their screening policies help manage risk. With the growing threat of fentanyl, testing and policies alike need to change. How are some labs responding to these trends, and what should employers consider going forward?

Some Drug Test Providers Now Prioritize Fentanyl

Many drug users don't seek out fentanyl specifically—at least, not at first. Many illicit drugs, including other opioids, methamphetamine, and even cocaine, may have fentanyl "cut" into the substance. The resulting drug is more addictive (and dangerous) as well as potent in a smaller quantity. However, traditional drug testing panels can't detect fentanyl on its own.

That may soon change. One primary provider of pre-employment drug screening recently announced it would include a panel for fentanyl among the types of drug tests they offer. Perhaps more notably, fentanyl testing will replace marijuana testing on that drug panel. With 24 states now home to legal recreational marijuana, laws restricting marijuana drug tests and hiring decisions based on them have begun to proliferate.

For employers, such an adjusted panel could be priceless, especially in states that prohibit testing for cannabis. The change also speaks to the severe nature of the fentanyl problem. Furthermore, it signals that the traditional approaches to drug testing, well-established for decades, may no longer suit the modern environment.

Why Drug Use Trends Matter to Employers

As the drug testing provider pointed out in comments to the media, the drugs of concern today aren't always the ones we focused on in the past. Not only has the legal status of marijuana changed in many states, but so too has the social stigma surrounding its use. Off-duty use may no longer be a significant concern for some employers. However, the rise of drugs like methamphetamine, fentanyl, and party drugs such as MDMA means that a vigilant testing program is still necessary.

Monitoring trends in drug usage can help employers craft screening policies that offer the most helpful information. When you aim to identify and minimize risk, you should prioritize testing for the substances that pose the most danger. Today, that's undoubtedly fentanyl and other illicit opioids. The pre-employment drug test must evolve with the times.

Combining the Background Check and Drug Screening Process

Screening for drug usage or a criminal background has the same ultimate purpose: helping you gauge what level of risk an applicant might represent. Someone habitually abusing substances might represent a substantial safety risk on the job. Similarly, an individual with a recent history of violent felonies might also pose a high risk to others on the job. The same could be said about someone with a history of drug crimes, such as possession with intent to sell.

Gauging risk requires the right tools. Alongside selecting a trusted drug testing provider, be sure you can quickly identify an individual's potential criminal record to develop a clearer picture. With help from backgroundchecks.com, doing so is simple. Our instant criminal record searches give you rapid access to information relevant to your decision-making process.

Between the rise of fentanyl and the complex patchwork of marijuana testing laws nationwide, employers must regularly evaluate their approach to critical hiring practices. A comprehensive system that combines background checks and employee drug screening is essential. With an appropriate setup, you can quickly acquire the information you need to bring the right candidates into your business.

Get instant updates on Drug Screening

Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

Michael's recent publications

More Like This Post

State Criminal Search

Virginia Criminal Search

A Virginia state background check can uncover more criminal records. Learn about these tools and the legal restrictions involved.

Order a Search for Virginia