Drug Testing for Ice
Australia is regularly reported as currently facing an ever-worsening ice epidemic, and it’s quite alarming. A slang term commonly used to refer to crystal methamphetamine or meth, ice has been declared by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a “national menace”, and rightly so. Australia, after all, has one of the highest rates of ice use in the world. According to the United Nation’s 2014 World Drug Report, Australia currently ranks third in meth use.
Being a strong stimulant drug, abuse of ice at work is common, something that CEOs, HR and safety officers in Australia have every reason to worry about. Still, while ice remains the biggest drug problem Australia has ever faced, there are actually a number of ways to deal with ice at workplace concerns.
What is Ice?
More potent than amphetamine, ice has generally a stronger influence and more powerful side effects that last longer. Belonging to the stimulant drugs category, ice speeds up the activities of the central nervous system, including messages from the brain to the body and vice versa. Meth dramatically increases the user’s dopamine levels. Dopamine plays a number of important roles in the brain and body, including the regulation of many systems in the brain that are involved in cognitive processes such as attention and working memory, feeling pleasure and motor control.
Also known as crystal, glass, or shabu, ice is a drug that is illicitly used across Australia. According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2010, an increasing number of Australians aged 14 years and above have experienced the drug in the previous 12 months.
Taking a closer look at ice
One can identify ice either as a large sheet-like crystal or in the form of crystalline powder. It can be clear-coloured or appear in a variety of colours. Meth can be smoked, injected directly into the bloodstream, snorted, or swallowed.
Also referred to as club drug, ice is a potent chemical that is dangerous to the health of the user. It initially acts as a stimulant, but eventually becomes a poison that destroys the body through frequent use.
Effects of ice on the body
As with other drugs, the effect of ice consumption on the body is dependent on several factors, including the amount taken in, mixture with other drugs, the individual’s history of drug use, and the environment in which the drug is taken in. Some of the short-term effects of the drug include blurred vision, loss of appetite, severe mood swings, unpredictable behaviour, change in sleeping patterns, elevated blood pressure, irregular heart rate, and tremors or convulsions. Depending on how meth is consumed, these effects can be experienced within 30 minutes after the drug gets into the body.
When taken regularly and in large amounts, ice consumption can result in more disturbing and serious conditions such as having the feeling of bugs crawling on the skin, body sores due to constant scratching and picking of the skin, chronic sleeping problems, increased strain on the kidneys, hallucinations, brain damage, psychosis, stroke, and even coma.
The Impact of Ice at Work
As a stimulant, ice is popular among workers who need to be more alert while working longer hours. The problem with ice at work, however, is that the effects of the drug on the user, such as blurred vision, tremors, and unpredictable behaviour, can seriously disrupt anyone’s work performance. Tardiness and absenteeism are common consequences of ice at work.
Even worse is the fact that using ice at work can gravely compromise the safety not only of the user, but also of everyone in the workplace. Compared to other illicit substances, meth causes a longer period of impairment in the user, right to the point when he or she remains seriously impaired even for days after taking the drug. So if a worker uses ice on a Saturday, he or she will still be impaired by Monday, and will most likely put everyone’s safety at risk. If a worker is high on meth, his or her ability to gauge speed and distance, make correct judgments, and perform with normal coordination suffers. In that condition, operating heavy machinery, driving company vehicles or performing tasks in high-risk or hazardous environments becomes a dangerous process for everyone.
When someone gets hurt because of ice at work, employers have to pay for Workman’s Compensation. When an employee involved in one such incident decides to file a case in court, the cost of ice at work for employers become considerably higher.
What to Do About Ice at Work
Developing and implementing a written drug and alcohol policy remains the top solution for ice at workplace concerns you might have. More often than not, a workplace drug and alcohol policy stipulates a drug testing programme, ice drug testing in this case.
Ice drug testing
With the ice epidemic that Australia is currently facing, it’s only fitting for workplace drug and alcohol policies to implement a random ice testing programme. Ice drug testing is also required of employees who get involved in workplace incidents as a matter of procedure. Employers can also ask an employee to undergo ice testing due to reasonable suspicion.
To determine if an employee uses ice at work, companies usually employ the following ice drug testing methods:
- Urine testing – A urine test can detect ice and its metabolites for several days after the drug has been used.
- Saliva testing – Fast, accurate, and easy to use, saliva testing detects actual traces of meth in oral fluids rather its metabolites. Generally considered less invasive, saliva testing is becoming commonly used by employers for its ice drug testing efforts.
- Hair testing – Meth can show up in a hair test for as long as 90 days, which makes it perfect for detecting evidence of past, historical use.
Tips to Detect Ice Abuse at the Workplace
Ice abuse has many visible signs and symptoms. However, not every single sign or symptom listed below is clear, irrefutable evidence that the person is using ice at work. Always remember that they could be signs of another medical condition or personal situation. Still, there is a great chance that a person has a meth problem if he or she is manifesting two or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Uncontrolled twitching
- Bloodshot eyes
- Excessive sweating
- Sores, abscesses on the skin from injecting meth and picking at it
- Rotting teeth/tooth loss, also known as meth mouth
- Unstable moods
- Psychosis and paranoia
- Aggressive behaviour
- Dark circles under the eyes, often due to insomnia
Developing a Comprehensive Ice Safe Workplace Program
A company should always protect itself from the kind of trouble that ice at workplace concerns give rise to. To do that, a company must develop and implement a workplace drug and alcohol policy, one that provides for education and awareness programmes as well as ice drug testing regimens.
If you need help developing a well-thought out drug and alcohol policy for your company, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Safework Laboratories, and we’ll set up a confidential discussion.