Truck drivers who take drugs are more than just a deadly presence on the roadways. These drivers disrupt the trucking industry by increasing trucking insurance rates and driving up turnover rates. One of the most dangerous drugs currently affecting the United States is opioids. Even more concerning is the fact that Department of Transportation drug testing did not test for all prescription opioids until recently. Find out what the latest drug testing regulations are and how truck drivers can protect themselves if they are prescribed opioids by a physician.
Are Opioids Illegal?
Yes and no. Opioids may be prescribed to truck drivers who are in pain due to an injury or accident. In fact, opioids, when prescribed by a physician, are not illegal. Unfortunately, the addictive nature of opioids often leads to dependency, which may drive users to purchase opioids illegally. Continued use beyond the dosage prescribed may be to feel the euphoria or pain reduction of using the drug, but it could also be driven by addiction; individuals who want to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Why are opioids such a big problem? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 90 people in the US die from an opioid overdose every day. From 21 to 29 percent of people who are given opioids by a physician to treat chronic pain will misuse the drug. This includes truck drivers, just like everyone else. Currently, opioid use and abuse is a social epidemic in the US.
Which Opioids are Added to DOT Drug Tests?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has added several opioids to its drug screening process. According to the extensively named rule, “Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs: Addition of Certain Schedule II Drugs to the Department of Transportation's Drug-Testing Panel and Certain Minor Amendments,” the following drugs are now being included in the DOT drug test for truck drivers:
- Hydrocodone, also known as Vicodin, Lorcet, Norco, Zamicet, Verdrocet, and Xodol
- Hydromorphone, known by the name brand of Exalgo ER or Dilaudid
- Oxymorphone, known by the name brand of Opana, Numorphone, or Numorphan
- Oxycodone, also known as Oxycontin, Oxaydo, Roxicodone, and Xtampza ER
Each of these drugs is a prescription medication that is used to treat moderate to severe pain.
Other substances added to the drug screening that are not opioids include:
- Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), which is chemically similar to MDMA aka Ecstasy
This is a final rule recorded in the Federal Register. The ruling went into effect on January 1, 2018, for all commercial truck drivers.
What Happens If You Take These Opioids?
Even if you are prescribed any of these opioids by a medical doctor, you cannot have them in your system when operating a commercial vehicle. Whether you are randomly DOT drug tested or getting an annual DOT drug screen, these opioids had better not be detected in your urine. If you are taking any of these opioids for pain following an injury or surgery, you need to wait until these substances are out of your system before driving a big rig. Here is a breakdown of how long these opioids typically remain detectable in urine after the last dose:
- Hydrocodone—up to four days
- Hydromorphone—up to three days
- Oxymorphone—up to four days
- Oxycodone—up to four days
Keep in mind this is just for urine testing. If you have a hair sample taken for a DOT drug test, opioids may be detectable for 90 days or longer.
What Happens If You Fail a DOT Drug Test?
Failing a DOT drug test can lead to a commercial driver’s license suspension and permanent shutdown. In addition, if you fail a DOT drug test due to an accident or traffic/moving violation, then you are at risk of criminal charges due to being intoxicated.
Opiod abuse is an escalating problem that affects many different sectors of our population. Help is available should you or a loved one be in need and wish to seek treatment for mental health or substance abuse services.