New Federal Employee Drug Screening Guidelines to Include Opioid Testing

By Jonathan K. Larsen, JD, MPP

There is no denying that the United States is experiencing an opioid overdose epidemic. Drug overdose deaths generally in the United States have been associated, at least in part, with increasing mortality rates among white non-Hispanics, which is counter to trends in other wealthy nations. The Urban Institute’s Laudan Aron recently posted about the underlying causes of our current epidemic, paying special attention to aggressive marketing of painkillers, the related spike in opioid prescriptions, and the closely correlated increase in opioid abuse. The issue has even made it into the current Presidential campaign, however briefly. President Obama has sought increased funding to address the issue, as well as a focused private, state, and local effort to tackle prescription drug abuse. While opioid abuse has been on the rise, it is not typically part of employee drug testing, when employers choose or are required to test. This may be changing.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the federal agency responsible for drug testing standards for federal agencies, is poised to release drug screening guidelines (see page 4 (28104 in the Federal Register) that would expand drug screening for opioid abuse to federal employees, and could influence employee drug testing policies across the nation. The US Department of Defense has been testing for hydrocodone and benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety and seizures among other things) since May 1, 2012. SAMHSA cites sobering statistics about opioid-related deaths now outnumbering deaths from illicit drugs, as it prepares to test for oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone, all classified as Schedule II drugs, or drugs with high risk of abuse, by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The proposed guidelines were released May 15, 2015, so the final rules should be coming soon. Continue reading

New Data on Drug Overdose Law


By Scott Burris

Working with Corey Davis of the Network for Public Health Law, PHLR has completed and posted updated longitudinal datasets of state laws authorizing naloxone distribution and creating “Good Samaritan” immunity for callers reporting a drug overdose to 911. Take a look at

On the theory that an image beats a few hundred words, here’s a report on the state of the law:

Drug Law Factoids for Your Consideration

By Scott Burris

This is a succinct paragraph from the weekly newsletter of U. Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research. Seems relevant both to the conference on law  enforcement and public health I reported on earlier this week, and the election results on marijuana:

There were an estimated 12,408,899 arrests in the United States in 2011, according to data from the national Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations—selling, manufacturing, or possessing drugs, followed by larceny-theft and driving under the influence. The majority (82%) of these arrests were for possession and one-half of these drug abuse violations involved marijuana. A poll conducted in 2011 found that one-half of U.S. residents think that marijuana should be legalized (see CESAR FAX, Volume 21, Issue 19).