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The Drugs They're Now Testing For in the Transportation Industry

The federal government has expanded the list of opiates employers are required to test for.

STATE WIDE--If you drive a bus or fly a plane or are in a job where you are responsible for transporting people, you can now be tested for several synthetic opiates. 

The federal government has decided to expand the list of drugs for which you can be tested, with the hope that it will make you safer, whether you're being driven or flown around, or whether you're sharing the road with people in those travel-sensitive jobs. 

Why expand the list

"Because we're faced with this opioid epidemic, the federal government will now require employers to test for a number of synthetic opiates, and those include hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone and oxymorphone," said Scott Watson, addiction counselor with Heartland Intervention, a DOT qualified substance abuse professional. 

"In you're in a safety sensitive job, if you drive a school bus or if you drive a truck-if you fly on an airplane as a consumer, the likelihood is that the traveling public will be a little more safe," said Watson. 

If someone tests positive

If someone were to test positive for those drugs, it may not mean an automatic firing. 

"That would be a matter of company policy whether or not someone would be fired. The rule requires people be immediately removed from safety-sensitive duty. and then there's a fairly lengthy return-to-duty process that people have to engage in." 

Watson said when a company's medical review officer would look at whether or not a person had a prescription for the drugs, if they test positive. But, the likelihood is that, that officer will determine that person should not be working in that position while on those opiates. 

Why not before?

So, why hasn't the federal government and DOT required testing for these drugs all along? 

"First off, the federal government moves very, very slowly. Second off, the federal government is trying to test for the things we know people are on. And we have to make sure that test is reliable and affordable," said Watson. 

He said the testing is on the employers' shoulders, and so is keeping people who are on those prescription drugs from driving, piloting or operating travel machinery, so that you are safer.

PHOTO: Thinkstock/tibu

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