Drug Testing For Cocaine
The popularity of cocaine among employed drug users may have peaked during the 1980s and has been in decline since, but cocaine at work remains a major problem today. In fact, it is still a major problem in Australia in general. According to the United Nation’s 2014 World Drug Report, Australia is the fourth-biggest user of cocaine in the world.
That dubious distinction should be enough to worry CEOs and HR or safety officers of Australian companies, because there’s a great chance someone within their workforce is one of those cocaine users. It’s a good thing then that they now have a number of options that would help them deal with cocaine at workplace concerns.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug that speeds up the activities in the central nervous system, and produces short-term euphoria and increased energy in addition to potentially dangerous physical effects in the body. Extracted from the leaves of the coca bush, cocaine was originally used by indigenous people in South America for increased energy, suppressed appetite, local anaesthetic, and other medicinal use.
It was in early 1900s when it became popular to snort cocaine which led to cases of nasal damage and other adverse effects. At present, cocaine is among the most popularly used stimulant drugs in the world. In Australia alone, 5.9% of Australian aged 14 years and above have used cocaine at some point in their life, according to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2007.
Taking a closer look at cocaine
The powdered form of cocaine, known as cocaine hydrochloride, can be consumed in one of several ways. It can be (1) inhaled or snorted through the nose, (2) dissolved in water and injected into the bloodstream, (3) rubbed into the gums, or (4) mixed and added into foods and drinks.
Another form of cocaine, known as crack, is processed to create a rock crystal, which is sometimes called freebase cocaine. This type of cocaine can be smoked, where the heated crystals produce vapours that will pass through the lungs and be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Effects of cocaine on the body
The effects of cocaine can be experienced anywhere from a couple of minutes to several hours, depending on the dosage consumed and the person taking it. Some of the immediate effects include dilated pupils, dry mouth, increased breathing and heart rate, reduced appetite, improved strength and energy, increased confidence and talkativeness, anxiety, panic paranoia, and a feeling of euphoria.
When taken frequently and in larger dosages, cocaine may lead to psychosis or a state that is often characterised by hallucinations and paranoid delusions. Some people also experience a “crash”, especially when they take the drug in high-dose binges. A crash often involves feelings of extreme hunger, lethargy, and intense depression.
Long-term effects of the drug, on the other hand, include insomnia and exhaustion, depression, anxiety and paranoia, weight loss and eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, nasal damage, breathing difficulties, and psychosis among others.
The impact of cocaine at work
This very addictive and harmful drug makes a considerable impact on the workplace. The performance of cocaine abusers are certainly going to take a hit. With the physical effects of cocaine, employees who abuse it are likely to be tardy and absent from work most of the time. Those who abuse cocaine at work are also prone to making poor judgments, and that can greatly affect one’s job performance.
The behaviour of a person who abuses cocaine at work is also of great concern. Being a strong stimulant, it fosters aggressive behaviour, and it is not unheard of for cocaine abusers to pick fights with coworkers and even become violent. Cocaine abusers are also given to incessantly borrowing money or stealing from colleagues just to be able to buy their next fix.
The biggest cocaine at workplace concern is the threat its abusers pose to the safety of everyone they work with. This is especially true of cocaine abusers who operate cranes, milling machines or any kind of heavy equipment. The same is true of pilots and drivers of company vehicles. Over the years, cocaine at work has been blamed for numerous work-related accidents which have resulted in injuries and deaths. These workplace accidents also cost employers a lot of money not only in Workman’s Compensation payments, but also in legal costs if the personnel involved in such accidents file suit.
What to do about cocaine at work
With all the trouble that cocaine at work can bring, employers need to protect themselves and their employees, and the only way to do just that is to create and implement a clearly-worded drug and alcohol policy. With a drug and alcohol policy in place, everyone in the workplace will have clear guidelines to follow about drug and alcohol use, and employers can exercise their right to require their workforce to undergo drug testing
Cocaine drug testing is usually done using these methods:
- Urine testing – This is one of the most common methods of testing not only for cocaine, but for a host of other substances as well. Considered the most affordable of all cocaine drug testing methods, urine can detect traces of cocaine for up to a week. It is, however, regarded by some as an invasive way of cocaine testing
- Saliva testing – This type of testing may be a bit more expensive than urine tests, but many employers are switching to this cocaine drug testing method because it’s regarded as one of the least invasive. Easily administered, saliva cocaine testing can detect use primarily within the past few days, and is better than most methods at detecting more recent use.
- Hair testing – Easily the one of the most expensive cocaine testing methods, hair testing, however, is better at detecting cocaine use over a longer period. In fact, with hair testing, brief breaks from using cocaine have little to no bearing on the results. It does not usually detect use within the last few days though.
Tips for Detecting Cocaine Abuse at the Workplace
Unless you’re a trained physician, no one in the workplace has the skills and training necessary to make a diagnosis on whether a co-worker abuses cocaine at work or not. However, there are visible signs and symptoms that could indicate a cocaine problem. Some of these signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse are:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose and/or nosebleeds from snorting cocaine
- Track marks from injecting cocaine
- Burned lips or fingers from smoking cocaine
- Licking their lips frequently
- Restless and unable to sit or stand still
- Talking endlessly, with topics unrelated to one another
- Irritable, argumentative, and overflowing with confidence
Establishing a Comprehensive Cocaine Safe Workplace Program
There is simply no better way to protect your business and the people who work for you than to develop and implement a solid drug and alcohol policy. Cocaine awareness programs, staff education and cocaine drug testing programs should be included in the policy, and Safework Laboratories can help with all that.
If you are interested in developing a comprehensive safe workplace program for your business, please get in touch with us today for a confidential discussion.