Do Paramedics/EMTs Get Drug Tested? How Often?

Most people managed to stay away from hard drugs. But as medical marijuana is becoming legal in more countries, recreational users are using it more often.

But at one point, we all have to clean up our act. Even though the government doesn’t mind you using marijuana, your employer might not think the same.

That said, do EMTs get drug tested?

Paramedics or EMTs deal with life and death situations every single day. In such high-pressure situations, there’s no space for mistakes. That’s why it’s compulsory to pass a drug before you even start your job as an EMT. If you get caught using drugs while on duty, you might face anything from suspension to job disposal.

The simple solution is to never use drugs. But what’s the procedure of these drug tests and how often do these happen? Well, you won’t find a fixed pattern. Although I can give you a pretty good idea.

We’ll discuss the following:

  • What Is a Drug Test?
  • What Drugs Will Firefighters Be Tested for?
  • Do Paramedics Get Drug Test?
  • How Often Do Paramedics (Emt-p) Get Drug Tested?
  • What Happens If You Fail A Drug Test Before Basic Training?
  • What Does A 10 Panel Drug Test Test For?

All right. Let’s start-

What Is a Drug Test?

what is drug test

A drug test is one type of action to determine whether existing employees or new job applicants have been using drugs or not. These drug tests can detect alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. Nowadays, drug testing at the workplace is a standard procedure that each and every employee has to go through.

Even if you don’t show any impairment or any sudden behavioral changes. There’s no escape from a drug test. If you want to pass the basic screening test, there’s no avoiding a drug test.

Nevertheless, every organization should have written policies shared with all employees to keep things transparent.

What Drugs Will Firefighters Be Tested for?

Firefighters mainly get tested for 3 types of drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs also known as street drugs. Unlike other drugs, there’s a silver lining when it comes to substances like alcohol. Avoid alcoholic drinks when you’re on duty and it shouldn’t be a problem.

1. Alcohol

  • Booze
  • Ethanol
  • Ethyl alcohol

Isn’t alcohol legal to consume? Well, it is. But there’s a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to consuming alcohol when you’re on duty. It’s even prohibited to possess or distribute alcohol in the workplace. As alcohol is known to limit your cognitive functions it’s strictly prohibited for firefighters while on duty.

2. Illicit or Street Drugs

  • Hallucinogens (LSD, peyote, mescaline, mushrooms
  • Amphetamines (meth, ecstasy, speed, crank)
  • THC (hash, cannabinoids, marijuana)
  • Cocaine (crack, coke)

Cocaine, crack, marijuana, LSD, heroin, anything that’s not prescribed by a physician is not okay to use for firefighters. And don’t forget, the substance stays in your system even though you won’t show any behavioral changes.

3. Illegal Prescription Drugs

  • Opiates (morphine, opium, codeine, heroin)
  • Hydrocodone (prescription medication known as Lortab, Vicodin, Oxycodone)

Prescription drugs are legal but can you say the same if they were registered by a pharmacist? When you see it like that, they’re not any different from street drugs.

Do Paramedics Get Drug Test?

Paramedics or anyone working in professional healthcare has to be drug tested. As these people constantly deal with life and death matters, staying under a drug influence could result in wrong decisions. Any EMS facility that operates with state funds requires the workplace along with its employees to keep it free of drug use, possession, and distribution.

It’s the responsibility of the organization to let its employees know about its drug policies. But distributing and using drugs in the workplace is a lot more dangerous than finding drugs in your system.

If the authority somehow finds out about it, there’s no denying you’ll be handed over to law enforcement agencies.

How Often Do Paramedics (Emt-p) Get Drug Tested?

There’s no fixed routine to when you might get drug tested. But expect one every 6 to 1 year. Most facilities take help from a third party who randomly selects the candidates for tests. There’s a mandatory drug test when you start the job. But expect to go through multiple drug tests over time.

Here are a few circumstances where an organization might think of doing a drug test-

1. Pre-employment

This is a basic procedure done in most organizations. It’s usually done after the preliminary job is over. Long story short, you agree to show proof of no drug use and if there’s a drug present in your body, the job offer will be withdrawn.

2. Reasonable Suspicion

Sometimes people start showing unnatural behavior or sudden mood changes when they’re under drug influence. This is when the employer suggests a drug test. And needless to say, the employee stays out of work until he/she’s in the clear.

3. Post-accident

Property damage and injuries are often the results of accidents. There’s always a chance that the accident was caused by drug abuse. While there might be other reasons behind it, it’s always better to do a drug under 12 to 30 hours.

4. Random

You never know when a random drug test is coming your way. As the selection process is taken care of by a computer, it’s actually random with no advance notice.

5. Periodic

Periodic drug tests are scheduled beforehand and employees like it better than sudden tests. But this also means they prepare for the tests if it’s scheduled a long time ago.

6. Return to Duty

Some facilities require you to do a return-to-duty drug test when you get back to work after an extended period of time. It’s also applicable for employees who have been absent for a long time.

What Happens If You Fail A Drug Test Before Basic Training?

What Happens If You Fail A Drug Test Before Basic Training?

Before basic training means you haven’t even started the job. You’re only in the preliminary stage. If you fail a drug test at that stage, you’ll be instantly terminated. This essentially means a red flag for employees where you can’t reapply for the same job without taking professional help.

After you’ve gone through proper treatment, only then you can reapply for the job position. Even though you had a red flag, the law will protect anyone who sought professional help after drug abuse.

What Does A 10 Panel Drug Test Test For?

A 10-panel drug test screens for several drugs including the 5 most commonly misused prescription drugs along with 5 illicit or illegal street drugs. Even though most employers stick to 5-panel drugs, a lot of them go for 10-panel drug tests too.

Blood, bodily fluids, hair, nail clippings, anything can be used for a 10-panel drug test. Although the most preferred method is using urine.

Anyway, here’s a foolproof list of the drugs they test for in a 10-panel drug test. I’ve also added how long they stay in your system-

SubstanceDetection Time Frame(days)
benzodiazepines  2-10
cannabis3-30(depends on usage frequency)
phencyclidine      8

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Bottom Line

A job in the emergency response sector might have its thrill but after all, it has its dangers. That said, there’s no scope for accidents or injuries due to drug or alcohol abuse.

So, if someone asks, do Paramedics/EMTs get drug tested? You already know what to tell them. And if they plan on becoming one, the first step is to stop using drugs altogether.


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