By Bill Current, President and Founder of Current Consulting Group (CCG)
This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.
I founded the Current Consulting Group (CCG) in 1998. To celebrate our 25th anniversary, each month we will be featuring special articles, webinars, and discounts on CCG services. Each of our monthly newsletters will feature an article entitled “Being Current: 25 Years in the Making” which will highlight some of the most important things I’ve learned about drug testing and about being in business since I started the #1 consulting firm in the industry two-and-a-half decades ago.
It’s About the Science
Here is the most impactful thing ever said about oral fluid drug testing:
“The scientific basis for the use of oral fluid as an alternative specimen for drug testing has now been broadly established and the advances in the use of oral fluid in detecting drugs have made it possible for this alternative specimen to be used in federal programs with the same level of confidence that has been applied to the use of urine.”¹
Who said that? The federal government.
On October 25, 2019, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published final guidelines for oral fluid testing in the Federal Register and included that statement among the many reasons why the federal government elected to revise their programs to include oral fluid testing. On May 2, 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued its final rule to allow the use of oral fluid testing by covered employers once there are at least two SAMHSA-certified labs for oral fluid testing, which would not have been possible if SAMHSA and DOT had not felt so strongly about the science behind oral fluid testing.
With the full endorsement of the two most prominent agencies involved with drug testing within the federal government, you could say that oral fluid testing has definitely come of age.
Drug testing has always been about science. In the early days of drug testing opponents attacked the science behind it. But over the years the science of drug testing has withstood the test of time. When new testing methods are introduced to the market, the first thing employers and providers want to know is “is it accurate?” or put another way “is the science sound?” If the science is there, that new method has a fighting chance. Even at that it will take decades if ever for the federal government to accept a new drug testing technology.
The scientific standards for drug testing have been the reason why most would-be methodologies don’t make it. They can’t meet the extraordinarily high scientific standards that have been established over three-plus decades of drug testing. And even those that do make it to market have a hard time getting anyone to take them seriously because the established methodologies of urine, hair and oral fluid have passed the test of time, both scientifically and legally. Few companies are willing to be the legal guinea pig for a new drug testing method.
While it is probably true that most people in the drug testing business cannot explain the science behind drug testing, that’s okay. There are people like Donna Smith, David Kuntz, Ed Cone and others who are able to explain the science in terms the rest of us can understand. And, when a company bases its program on the standards established in 49 CFR Part 40, whether urine or oral fluid, they can know that the science they are relying on is sound.
What SAMHSA said bears repeating:
“The scientific basis for the use of oral fluid as an alternative specimen for drug testing has now been broadly established… [making it] possible for this alternative specimen to be used… with the same level of confidence that has been applied to the use of urine.”
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