You have probably read about the popularity of rave parties at which people take a mixture of drugs and then proceed to dance all night long and sometimes well into the next day. Many of these people are Australian workers who show up on Monday morning for work after a weekend of drug taking and alcohol consumption. The question is whether these employees are mentally and physically prepared to do their job safely and not put co-workers at risk.
The alarming rise in the use of dangerous substances at rave, club or dance parties presents a challenge to Australian employers who must balance the safety of the workplace with the privacy of the workers. Australian case law has made it clear that workers have a right to privacy and employers have no right to question how workers behave when not on duty. However, employers do have an obligation to keep the workplace safe.
Club drugs are some of the most powerful illicit drugs on the market. The party goers will take the drugs alone or in combinations called polydrug use. They are also called ‘date rape’ drugs when secretly given to another person in a drink for the purpose of sexual assault or robbery. Over 4,500 people each year in Australia are victims of spiked drinks though statistics to date indicate that alcohol plays a central role in these cases. In other words, the illicit substances are almost always accompanied by alcohol consumption.1
When reading the online forums you can get a glimpse into the types of drugs taken and the behaviours of those attending these parties. The goal is to take drugs in a way that enhances the musical and dance experience. For example, psychedelic drugs like MDMA are taken for their hallucinogenic effects, and GHB is taken for its ability to product a euphoric feeling and to enhance sexual performance.
As an employer, you have probably had to deal with the question of whether or not you should test employees for drugs on Monday morning if you believe they have been attending drug infested rave parties. It’s a fair question because the effects of club drugs may linger long after the weekend party is over and well into Monday or later.
For example, MDMA (ecstasy) may be detectable by a urine drug test for up to 4 days. MDMA also is known to produce mental confusion and anxiety in many users once the initial 6 hour ‘high’ wears off. GHB is liquid ecstasy that is often used with alcohol. The drug’s effects last approximately 4 hours and they include feelings of euphoria. GHB in high doses can also produce drowsiness, nausea and loss of reflexes.
Common club drugs that can be detected with the Oraline saliva drug test or a urine drug test include the following:2
- MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) – stimulant and hallucinogenic drug similar to an amphetamine that is detectable for up to 2 days in saliva and 4 days in urine
- GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrat) – called ‘liquid ecstasy’ it is an intoxicating euphoriant that is also similar to a sedative and is detectable for only 12 hours in optional urine testing
- Ketamine – an injectable anaesthetic that produces hallucinations and dreamlike states and is currently detectable through optional urine testing
- Rohypnol – a powerful benzodiazepine usually taken orally that produces amnesia, visual disturbances and dizziness and is detectable for up to 48 hours in saliva and 3 days in urine
- Methamphetamine – dangerous stimulant taken in various forms it can lead to memory loss, aggression and psychotic behaviour and is detectable for up to 48 hours in saliva and 4 days in urine
- LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) – hallucinogenic that produces unpredictable results including psychotic episodes, sleeplessness and tremors and is detectable for up to and 2 days in urine
GHB and ketamine use are drug problems that are only now gaining national prominence due to the rave party reports. It is expected that eventually these drugs will be routinely tested also in a way similar to testing for meth and benzodiazepines.
You will take note that most of the drugs are detectable 2 days or longer after use. The employees who attended rave parties on Saturday night will still have the drug in their systems on Monday morning. The drug effects include shifts in realty perceptions, a sense of euphoria, distortion of sensory perceptions, ataxia or loss of motor skills, loss of ability to perceive time and general mental fog. Each one of these physical and mental symptoms of drug use can create a safety issue for the employer.
The key to maintaining safety in the workplace is to be alert to signs of drug use. A random drug testing program can include testing on Monday mornings as long as the workers are truly chosen in a random manner. On the other hand, workers who clearly exhibit behaviours that indicate safety on the job is being compromised should be tested for causation.
CMM Technology at http://www.cmm.com.au/ has offers standard and optional drug and alcohol testing equipment. Employers are encouraged to discuss with CMM’s the professionals any concerns they have as to the effectiveness of their current drug testing equipment.
1. Australian Institute of Family Studies. (2003, November). Beyond ‘drink spiking’: drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault (Briefing No. 2). Retrieved May 20, 2011, from Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault: http://www.aifs.gov.au/acssa/pubs/briefing/b2.html#intro
2. Drug Info Clearinghouse. (2003, August). Club Drugs Fact Sheet No. 2.6. Retrieved May 13, 2011, from Australian Government Drug Info Clearinghouse: druginfo.adf.ddsn.net/download.aspx?RelatedLinkID=659