DOT proposes adding four opioids to drug testing panel

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Department of Transportation is proposing a rule that would add four opioids to its drug testing panel.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register on Jan. 23, the DOT is considering amending its drug testing program regulation to include testing for hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone. In addition, the proposal would add methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an initial test analyte and remove methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA) as a confirmatory test analyte.

The Department of Health and Human Services revised its mandatory guidelines on Jan. 23. HHS has set an effective date of Oct. 1, 2017, for compliance with its final revision.

“According to HHS, recommendations for the four added semi-synthetic drugs were based on a review of scientific information and on input from the Drug Testing Advisory Board on the methods necessary to detect the analytes of drugs and on drug abuse trends,” the notice of proposed rulemaking stated. “With the DTAB recommendations, private sector experience findings, and analysis of current drug abuse trends, HHS concluded that the additional opioids of oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone and hydromorphone should be added in the Federal program.”

The proposal didn’t provide any statistics regarding the use of opioids in relation to the transportation industry. However, several statistics involving general opioid use were cited:

  • Centers for Disease Control data from 2012 indicates that 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids.
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Survey on Drug Use and Health data from 2014, almost 2 million Americans misused or were dependent on prescription opioids. 
  • As posted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids rose from 28,647 in 2014 to 33,091 in 2015. 
  • National Center for Health Statistics data indicates that every year since 2002 more than 40 percent of the total number of overdose deaths in the United States have been related to prescription opioids. 

The proposal also included a provision indicating that only urine specimens are authorized to be used for the drug testing program.

More information on the proposal can be found here. Comments must be submitted by March 24.

Written comments can be submitted at the Regulations.gov website or by mailing Docket Services, U.S. Department of Transportation, Room W12-140; 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE; Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

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