Recovery Plus: Workplace wellbeing 28 September 2016 Drug testing: the maze and the map The maze. Treatment programmes – and the passionate men and women who work in these environments – have long struggled with the decision to introduce a drug testing protocol. It seems too much to consider... Too many articles seem to disagree... Too many different and dubious legal considerations... Too many lab companies showing up in the news as seeming profiteers or criminals... Even stories from our own colleagues seem to be random: they can be good or bad, miracles or hassles. With so many twists and turns, treatment professionals sometimes feel that they have been dropped in in a maze with no idea where to begin getting out. The map. This article promises only two things. First, it will show you the map of this maze. It can be daunting to look at. But the second promise is this: a simple, lighted path out of the maze: so simple that you’ll soon forget why were you were lost at all. So hang in there. The fear: loss of your patients. There is a real fear that, by instituting drug testing procedures, we risk losing our relationship of trust with our patients. In some cases, such as when a patient “pops positive” on their lab report or with a point-of-care device, we fear that we might be faced with the hard decision to dismiss that patient or resident from our programme – or employee from our company. Such ramifications of instituting a drug-testing programme are hard to swallow. So the idea of drug testing your patients or employees is often dismissed out of hand. Justifications for the dismissal are easy to make. They often sound like this: “Testing my patients isn’t in line with my message of a compassionate and trusting environment for recovery. I know him/her, and I would know if they were being honest. Our relationship is strong enough, close enough that I would be able to tell if this person was using, or they would certainly tell me”. Stories like this are so insidious because they are so often true. The fix: get real (1). Change your words, change your world. As petty as it sounds, the term “drug testing” conjures up negative associations. Do we pass or do we fail? That is a daunting prospect, especially for people in recovery. Recently, labs and medical professionals have tried to alleviate the stigma by using alternative terms like “monitored recovery protocols” or “prescription management evaluation and risk assessment”. The goal isn’t to fool anyone: it's to shed light on the role of the testing programme – to serve as a tool to aid in recovery by always objectively knowing valuable objective data to guide a person's treatment from where they actually are, not from where they think they are or say where they are. The fix: get real (2). Focus on your purpose. Implementing a testing programme has the automatic and immediate effect of focusing a treatment plan. You can identify clear goals for people and distinguish what you are looking for in outcomes. Will you guide treatment based on results? Will you terminate it? It’s up to you. Also, you now have a plan if there is a relapse, the consequences of which you’ve already discussed with your patient up front! This preserves the integrity of your trust-relationship. By the end of this presentation at Recovery Plus Workplace Wellbeing, delegates will be able to: 1) list trends in drug and alcohol testing over the past decade 2) explain why testing is necessary for clients, doctors and services 3) list the latest testing techniques 4) identify use of benzodiazepines and other prescribed drugs in the workplace, as well as illicit drugs.
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