Employee drug-testing reaches new high

22:54, Apr 01 2013

The number of workers being tested for drugs has increased significantly in Southland and Otago in the past year, with cannabis continuing to be the most frequently detected drug.

The New Zealand Drug Detection Agency's annual statistics show it conducted 2903 on-site drug-screening tests in 2012 in Southland for cannabis, opiates, meth, amphetamines, cocaine and benzodiazepines. This compared with 2033 tests in 2011.

In Otago, drug tests jumped from 2422 workers checked in 2011 to 4074 workers in 2012.

In Southland last year, 6 per cent of the people tested returned "non-negative" results, compared with 5 per cent in 2011.

A non-negative result means there is an indication a drug has been detected but the sample needs to be sent to a laboratory for confirmation before it can be determined positive.

In Otago last year, 4 per cent of the workers tested returned non negative results, compared with 5 per cent in 2011.

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Workplace drug- and alcohol-testing takes place mostly in safety-sensitive industries such as construction, forestry, meatworks, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, transport and waste.

Cannabis continues to be the most frequently detected drug in workplaces in Southland and Otago. In Southland, 62 per cent of all non-negative results in 2012 were for cannabis.

Another 32 per cent of all non-negative results were for opiates, 2 per cent were for meth, 1 per cent was for amphetamines and 4 per cent were for benzodiazepines.

In Otago in 2012, 54 per cent of the people who tested non-negative for drugs were using cannabis.

Another 41 per cent tested non-negative for opiates, 3 per cent were for meth and 2 per cent were for benzodiazepines.

The drug testing agency's Otago and Southland general manager John Galliven said employers in Southland did not want drugs in their workplaces and that was one of the reasons testing numbers had increased.

Southland had one of the lowest positive rates in the country for cannabis, the nationwide drug of choice, but it continued to be the most frequently detected drug in the workplace, Mr Galliven said.

There were about 120 companies in Southland using the agency's services and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters had also got on board, he said.

The agency's Queenstown office, which opened in 2012, had noticed more forestry companies enlisting in drug testing for 2013.

In Dunedin, transport, mining and port services were the main industries using the testing service.

The statistics also set out the test reasons - pre-employment, post-incident, retest, random, reasonable cause or voluntary.

Retesting was the main reason for testing in Southland (23 per cent), while reasonable cause was the reason for most testing in Otago (19 per cent).

The statistics did not include synthetic cannabis data because the agency started testing for it only in the latter part of last year with the introduction test strips.

There was strong anecdotal evidence that its use was on the rise, national agency chief executive Chris Hilson said. It was pleasing that no cocaine at all was detected in workplace drug testing during the past three years, he added.

The Southland Times