Substance Abuse Basics Glossary
U.S. Department of Labor,
Constitution Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20210, U.S.A.
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Abuser - A person who uses
drugs in ways that threaten his health or impair his
social or economic functioning.
Accuracy - Ability to get the
correct or true drug testing result.
Addiction - The point at which
a person's chemical usage causes repeated harmful
consequences and the person is unable to stop using
the drug of choice. Medically the term implies that
withdrawal will take place when the mood-changing
chemical is removed from the body.
Alcohol - Refers to ethyl alcohol
Alcoholism - A treatable illness
brought on by harmful dependence upon alcohol, which
is physically and psychologically addictive. As a
disease, alcoholism is primary, chronic, progressive
Aliquot - A portion of a specimen
used for testing.
Amphetamines - Synthetic amines
(uppers) that act with a pronounced stimulant effect
on the central nervous system.
Assay - The measurement of
the quantity of a chemical component.
Barbiturates - A class of drugs
used in medicine as hypnotic agents to promote sleep
or sedation. Some are also useful in the control of
epilepsy. All are central nervous system depressants
and are subject to abuse. Depending upon their potency
they are classified as Schedule I or Schedule II drugs.
Batch Reporting - Urine specimens
for drug testing are frequently sent to the laboratory
in groups or "batches." Test results are
generally reported on all specimens in a batch simultaneously,
rather than reporting the negative first then, after
a delay while they are confirmed, reporting the positive
results. Batch reporting improves confidentiality
by helping to avoid identifying those individuals
whose test must be confirmed.
Benzodiazepines - A class of
drugs used in medicine as minor tranquilizers which
is frequently prescribed to treat anxiety. They are
central nervous system depressants and are subject
Binge Drinking - The consumption
of five or more alcoholic drinks in a row on at least
Blank - Biological specimen
with no detectable drugs added, routinely analyzed
to ensure that no false-positive results are obtained.
Blind Sample - A specimen submitted
to a laboratory for quality control testing purposes,
with a fictitious identifier, so that the laboratory
cannot distinguish it from employee specimens, and
which is spiked with known quantities of specific
drugs or which is blank, containing no drugs.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)
- The amount of alcohol in the bloodstream measured
in percentages. A BAC of 0.10 percent means that a
person has 1 part alcohol per 1,000 parts blood in
Cannabinoids - The psychoactive
substances found in the common hemp plant, or Cannabis
Sativa. Most of the psychological effects are produced
Certified Laboratory - A laboratory
which has met certain minimum performance standards
set by an accrediting agency, and has received a certificate
to verify this fact.
Chain-of-Custody - Procedures
to account for the integrity of each urine specimen
by tracking its handling and storage from point of
specimen collection to final disposition of the specimen.
Documentation of this process must include the date
and purpose each time a specimen is handled or transferred,
and identification of each individual in the chain-of-custody.
Chemical Dependency - A harmful
dependence on mood-changing chemicals.
Chromatography - Any of a variety
of techniques used to separate mixtures of drugs and
their metabolites and other chemicals into individual
components based on differences in their relative
affinities for two different media: a mobile phase
and a stationary phase. In gas chromatography, the
mobile phase is inert gas such as nitrogen or helium
and the stationary phase is a high-boiling liquid
bound to fine particles packed in a glass column,
or bound to the inner surface of a glass capillary
Cocaine - An alkaloid, methylbenzoylecgonine,
obtained from the leaves of the coca tree (Erythroxylon
sp.). It is a central nervous system stimulant that
produces euphoric excitement; abuse and dependence
constitute a major drug problem.
Collection Site - A place designated
where individuals present themselves for the purpose
of providing a specimen of their urine to be analyzed
for the presence of drugs.
Concentration - Amount of drug
in a unit volume of biological fluid expressed as
weight/volume. Urine concentrations are expressed
in nanogram/milliliter, as micrograms/milliliter or
Confirmatory Test - A second
analytical procedure to identify the presence of a
specific drug which is independent of the initial
drug test and which uses a different technique and
chemical principle in order to ensure reliability
Cutoff Level (Threshold) -
The defined concentration of an analyte in a specimen
at or above which the test is called positive and
below which it is called negative. This concentration
is usually significantly greater than the sensitivity
of the assay.
Depressants - Drugs that reduce
the activity of the nervous system (alcohol, downers,
Designer Drugs - Illegal drugs
are defined in terms of their chemical formulas. To
circumvent these legal restrictions, underground chemists
modify the molecular structure of certain illegal
drugs to produce analogs known as designer drugs.
Many of the so- called designer drugs are related
to amphetamines and have mild stimulant properties
but are mostly euphoriants. They can produce severe
neurochemical damage to the brain.
Detection Limit - Lowest concentration
of a drug that can be reliably detected.
Downers - Barbiturates, minor
tranquilizers, and related depressants.
Drug - A drug is any chemical
substance that alters mood, perception, or consciousness.
Drug Abuse - Pathological use
of a prescribed or unprescribed chemical substance.
Employee Assistance Program -
A program designed to assist employees with drug abuse,
or other problems, by mean of counseling, treatment
or referral to more specific centers.
Enabling - Allowing irresponsible
and destructive behavior patterns to continue by taking
responsibility for others, not allowing them to face
the consequences of their own actions.
Ethyl Alcohol - Ethanol is
the member of the alcohol series of chemicals which
is used in alcoholic beverages. It is less toxic than
other members of this series, but it is a central
nervous system depressant and has a high abuse potential.
False Negative - A test result
which states that no drug is present when, in fact,
a tested drug or metabolite is present in an amount
greater than the threshold or cut-off amount.
False Positive - A test result
which states that a drug or metabolite is present
when, in fact, the drug or metabolite is not present
or is in an amount less than the threshold or cut-off
GC-MS (Gas Chromatography/Mass
Spectroscopy) - An abbreviation for the instrumental
technique which couples the powerful separation potential
of gas chromatography with the specific characterization
ability of mass spectroscopy.
Habituation (Psychological Dependence)
- The result of repeated consumption of a drug which
produces psychological but no physical dependence.
The psychological dependence produces a desire (not
a compulsion) to continue taking drugs for the sense
of improved well-being.
Hallucinogens - Drugs that
stimulate the nervous system and produce varied changes
in perception and mood.
Hashish - The concentrated
resin of the marijuana plant.
Heroin - A semisynthetic derivitive
of morphine originally used as an analgesic and cough
depressant. In harmful doses it induces euphoria;
tends to make the user think he or she is removed
from reality, tension, and pressures.
Illegal Drugs (See Schedule I and
Schedule II Drugs) - n/a
Immunoassay - The measurement
of an antigen-antibody interaction utilizing such
procedures as immunofluorescence, radioimmunoassay,
enzyme immunoassay or other nonradioisotopic techniques.
In drug testing, the antigen is a drug or metabolite
and its corresponding labeled analog; the antibody
is a protein grown in an animal and directed towards
a specific drug, metabolite or group of similar compounds.
Inhalants - Inhalants include
a variety of psychoactive substances which are inhaled
as gases or volatile liquids. Many are readily available
in most households and are inexpensive. They include
paint thinner, glue, gasoline, and other products
that are not considered to be drugs.
Initial Test - The initial
test, or screening test, is used to identify those
specimens which are negative for the presence of drugs
or their metabolites. These specimens need no further
examination and need not undergo a more costly confirmation
LSD - LSD distorts perception
of time and space, and creates illusions and hallucinations.
It comes in liquid form and most often is swallowed
after being placed on a sugar cube or blotting paper.
LSD increases blood pressure, heart rate, and blood
sugar. Nausea, chills, flushes, irregular breathing,
sweating and trembling occur.
Marijuana - Marijuana is prepared
by crushing the dried flowering cannabis top and leaves
into a tealike substance, which is usually rolled
into a cigarette (a joint) and smoked. The effects
are felt within minutes. The user may experience a
distorted sense of time and distance, suffer reduced
attention span and loss of memory. Higher doses also
cause impaired judgment, slowed reaction time, limited
motor skills, confusion of time sense, and short-term
Mass Spectrometry - Analysis
using an analytical instrument that provides accurate
information about the molecular mass and structure
of complex molecules. This technique can identify
and quantify extremely small amounts of drugs or metabolites
by their mass-fragment spectrum.
Medical Review Officer - A
licensed physician responsible for receiving laboratory
results generated by a drug testing program who has
knowledge of substance abuse disorders and has appropriate
medical training to interpret and evaluate an individual's
positive test result together with his or her medical
history and any other relevant biomedical information.
Metabolite - A compound produced
from chemical changes of a drug in the body.
Methadone - A synthetic opiate
with action similar to that of morphine and heroin
except that withdrawal is more prolonged and less
severe. It is used in methadone maintenance programs
as a substitute for heroin in the treatment of addicts.
Methamphetamine - An addictive
stimulant that is closely related to amphetamine,
but has longer lasting and more toxic effects on the
central nervous system. It has a high potential for
abuse and addiction.
Methaqualone - A hypnotic drug
unrelated to the barbiturates but used as a sedative
and sleeping aid. It is also known by its trade name
Narcotics - A class of depressant
drugs derived from opium or related chemically to
compounds in opium. Regular use leads to addiction.
On-Site Screening - A preliminary
immunoassay test may be conducted at the worksite.
Opiates - Drugs derived from
opium such as morphine and codeine, together with
the semisynthetic congeners such as heroin.
Passive Inhalation - Exposure
of non-smoking subjects to side-stream smoke from
active smokers, thereby raising the possibility that
a non- user... may test positive.
Pharmacodynamics - The study
of the relationship of drug concentration to drug
Pharmacokinetics - The study
of the time course of the processes (absorption, distribution,
metabolism, and excretion) a drug undergoes in the
Phencyclidine (PCP) - Phencylidine,
also known as PCP or Angel Dust, is a synthetic (or
manufactured) substance that is chemically related
to ketamine, which is widely used in anesthesia. Intoxication
may result in blurred vision, diminished sensation,
muscular rigidity, muteness, confusion, anxious amnesia,
distortion of body image, thought disorder, auditory
hallucinations, and variable motor depression or stimulation,
which may include aggressive or bizarre behavior.
Physical Dependence - Occurs
when a person cannot function normally without the
repeated use of a drug. If the drug is withdrawn,
the person has severe physical and psychic disturbances.
Polydrug Use - The consumption
of more than one drug at the same time.
Pre-Employment Testing - Drug
testing on applicants for jobs.
Precision - A measurement of
the agreement between repeated measurements. The standard
deviation, variance or coefficient of variation may
be used as a measure of precision.
Psychoactive Drugs - Drugs
that affect the mind, especially mood, thought, or
Psychological Dependence (See Habituation)
Qualitative Analysis - Relating
to a test or measurement that determines the presence
or absence of specific drugs or metabolites in the
Quality Assurance (QA) - A
program by which good technical procedures are provided
to ensure good quality laboratory services. These
procedures include pre-analytical conditions and variables,
analytical variables and control of the analytical
quality by statistical methods.
Quality Control (QC) - A system
instituted to maintain the output of a technical operation
at a level that has been established as acceptable.
It involves the setting of quality standards, continual
appraisal of conformance to these standards, and in
the absence of conformance, taking corrective action
to establish or maintain the predetermined levels
Quantitative Analysis - The
accurate determination of the quantity of drug or
metabolite present in a specimen
Random Testing - Unannounced,
random selection of candidates to be tested.
Reasonable Suspicion Testing (Also
For-Cause Testing) - Testing conducted when management
has reason to believe that an employee may be using
illegal drugs. Management's belief must be based on
specific objective facts and reasonable inferences.
Safety-Sensitive Positions -
Occupational positions which are deemed acutely sensitive
to safety considerations such as airline pilots, nuclear
reactor operators, train crews etc.
Schedule I Drugs - Drugs in
Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act are those
substances that have a high potential for abuse, no
currently acceptable medical use in treatment, and
which lack any accepted safe use under medical supervision.
Schedule II Drugs - Drugs in
Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act are those
substances that have a high potential for abuse with
severe liability to cause psychic or physical dependence,
but have some approved medical use.
Screen (See Initial Test) -
Sensitive Position - Such positions
may include employees who are engaged in law enforcement,
have access to classified information, engage in activities
affecting public health or safety, operate mechanical
equipment, or other functions requiring a high degree
of trust and confidence.
Sensitivity - The smallest
concentration of a drug or metabolite which can be
reliably detected by a particular assay method.
Specific Gravity - The ratio
of the density of urine to the density of water at
a specified temperature. The specific gravity of random
urine specimens ranges between 1.002 and 1.030 at
body temperature, depending on fluid intake.
Specificity - The ability of
a particular test to identify a drug or metabolite
without interference or cross reactions.
Specimen - The entire quantity
of material (e.g., urine, blood) collected for analysis.
Split Specimen - The practice
of dividing a specimen into two portions, one of which
may be submitted for analysis and the other preserved
by freezing for the confirmation analysis or reanalysis.
Standard - Authentic sample
of the analyte of known purity, or a solution of the
analyte of a known concentration.
Steroids - A large family of
pharmaceutical drugs related to the adrenal hormone
Stimulants - Drugs that increase
the activity of the nervous system, causing wakefulness.
THC - Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol,
the most active cannabinoid.
Tolerance - A state in which
the body's tissue cells adjust to the presence of
a drug. The term "tolerance" refers to a
state in which the body becomes used to the presence
of a drug in given amounts and eventually fails to
respond to ordinarily effective dosages. Hence, increasingly
larger doses are necessary to produce desired effects.
Uppers - Stimulants.
Withdrawal - Symptoms that
appear during the process of stopping the use of a
drug that has been taken regularly.
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