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Substance Abuse Basics Glossary

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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 or ethanol.

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 and fatal.

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 to abuse.

Binge Drinking - The consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks in a row on at least one occasion.

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 the body.

Cannabinoids - The psychoactive substances found in the common hemp plant, or Cannabis Sativa. Most of the psychological effects are produced by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

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 column.

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 milligrams/liter.

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 and accuracy.

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, and narcotics).

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 value.

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 test.

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 memory loss.

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 Quaalude.

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 effects.

Pharmacokinetics - The study of the time course of the processes (absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion) a drug undergoes in the body.

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 perception.

Psychological Dependence (See Habituation) - n/a

Qualitative Analysis - Relating to a test or measurement that determines the presence or absence of specific drugs or metabolites in the specimen.

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 of performance.

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) - n/a

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 cortisone.

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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