You’ve just tested positive for drugs during roadside drug testing or during a saliva drug test in the workplace. This means you will face significant consequences – a fine and loss of license on the road and at the very least a black mark against you at work. Or will it?
Before you start to get carried away worrying about the consequences, it’s important to understand that what you’ve failed is the preliminary drug testing. No action can be taken and no consequences can be dished out for failing a preliminary test. The only thing that will happen is you won’t be allowed to drive for 24 hours (the rule in most states or territories) and you will be safely removed from the workplace. This is simply a safety measure, to ensure you can’t hurt yourself or others on the road or in the workplace.
Laboratory drug testing holds the key
The other thing that does occur if you fail preliminary drug testing is that you are asked to provide another saliva sample. This sample is sent to a laboratory for more sensitive and accurate laboratory analysis.
This is an important thing to note because while the equipment used to conduct preliminary saliva testing is very accurate, it’s not 100 per cent accurate. False positives do occur occasionally and that’s why no action is taken after preliminary tests.
In the lab, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis is carried out to identify any substances in the test saliva sample. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry is regarded as the gold standard for testing. It can be used to tell not only what family of drugs may be in the sample (e.g. opiates) but also what drug (e.g. heroin).
Roadside drug testing in South Australia
To give you a better idea of how the this works, let’s take a look at the process used by the Government of South Australia:
- Drivers are required to undergo a drug screening test, while they remain in their vehicle, by placing a saliva test strip on their tongue. The sample is screened at the roadside and the result determined within approximately 3 minutes.
- Drivers who return a negative drug test are not detained any further. Drivers who return a positive result are required to provide an oral fluid sample for analysis. Drivers will be interviewed according to standard police procedure and the sample sent to a laboratory for analysis.
- Once the process is complete the driver is allowed to leave, although they will not be permitted to drive their vehicle for a period of 24 hours. No further action is taken by police until the results of the laboratory analysis are known. Drivers will be informed within a few weeks if the laboratory analysis confirms the presence of THC, Methylamphetamine or MDMA and accordingly, they will be issued with an expiation notice or prosecuted for an offence.
Who do you blame for failing a drug test?
We receive comments all the time in our social media blaming us, the police and the government for drug testing and the consequences of failing a drug test. But you might just as well blame the poor laboratory assistant.
The real person to blame is yourself, for not making sure there was an adequate amount of time between taking the drugs and driving or going to work.
If you fail preliminary drug testing on the roads or at work, does this mean you now have to face the consequences? Credit Gregg O’Connell https://www.flickr.com/photos/greggoconnell/418332051/ and Motor Verso https://bit.ly/3rnD3ZL (images modified).