Cocaine drug testing offers employers a credible way to address potential substance abuse in the workplace.

The popularity of cocaine among employed drug users reached its peaked during the 1980s and has been in decline since. However, cocaine at work remains a major problem even today.

In 2020, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission revealed that Australians spent more than $11 billion on cocaine and other illicit drugs over the past year.

In its latest analysis of wastewater throughout the country, the ACIC found as much as 11.5 tonnes of methylamphetamine and 4.6 tonnes of cocaine. Wastewater samples also contained 2.2 tonnes of MDMA and more than 900 kilograms of heroin.

Before this, Australia had ranked as the fourth largest user of cocaine in the world, according to the United Nation’s World Drug Report.

Both the ACIC and UN reports offer a snapshot of the country’s growing concern over drug use. This distinction is enough to worry company CEOs and HR or safety officers about the possibility that one of their workers could be abusing cocaine.

What is cocaine?

Cocaine abuse

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that speeds up the activities in the central nervous system. Using the drug triggers a temporary feeling of euphoria and increased energy in users. However, it also produces dangerous physically effects in the body.

Cocaine use originated from South America. Indigenous people would often extract the substance from coca leaves and use it for different applications. These include triggering a boost of energy, suppressing appetite, and producing local anaesthetics and other medicines.

It was in early 1900s when it became popular to snort the drug. This led to numerous cases of nasal damage and other adverse effects among abusers.

Unfortunately, many people still abuse cocaine use even today. In Australia alone, 5.9% of Australian aged 14 years and above have used cocaine at some point in their life, according to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2007.

Taking a closer look at cocaine

The powdered form of cocaine, known as cocaine hydrochloride, can be consumed in one of several ways. These include:

  • Inhaling or snorting through the nose
  • Dissolving in water and injecting into the bloodstream
  • Rubbing into the gums
  • Mixing or adding into foods and drinks.

Crack is another infamous form of cocaine. Drug makers process the substance to turn it into freebase cocaine, or more commonly known as rock crystals. Users would often smoke crack to release the vapours in the rock crystals and absorb them into their bodies.

Effects of cocaine on the body

The effects of cocaine can last somewhere between a couple of minutes and several hours. This often depends on the person using the drug and how much of the substance they’ve consumed. Some of the immediate effects include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased breathing and heart rate
  • Reduced appetite
  • Improved strength and energy
  • Increased confidence and talkativeness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic paranoia
  • Feeling of euphoria.

When taken frequently and in larger dosages, cocaine can lead to psychosis. People would often suffer hallucinations or paranoid delusions as a result of their drug use.

Some users also experience a “crash”, especially when they binge on the drug. This causes them to feel extremely hungry, lethargic, and even depressed.

Cocaine use causes long-term effects such as insomnia and exhaustion, depression, anxiety and paranoia. In some cases, it can also cause weight loss and eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, nasal damage, breathing difficulties, and psychosis.

The impact of cocaine use at work

Cocaine is a very addictive and harmful drug that can have a significant impact in the workplace. The performance of cocaine abusers are certainly going to take a hit.

Cocaine abuse behaviour

Employees who abuse the drug tend to be tardy and absent from work most of the time. They are also more prone to making poor judgments, which can significantly affect their job performance.

The behaviour of a person who abuses cocaine at work is also of great concern. People who use the drug tend to be more aggressive toward others. They are generally harder to work with and would often pick fights with coworkers. These individuals also tend to borrow or steal money from their colleagues to buy drugs.

The biggest cocaine at workplace concern is the threat its abusers pose to the safety of everyone they work with. This is especially true of workers who operate cranes, milling machines or any kind of heavy equipment.

Over the years, cocaine use at work has been blamed for numerous work-related accidents that have resulted in injuries and deaths. Such incidents can also cost employers a lot of money in legal expenses and Workman’s Compensation payments.

What to do about cocaine at work

With all the trouble that cocaine at work can bring, employers need to protect themselves and their employees, and the only way to do just that is to create and implement a clearly-worded drug and alcohol policy.

Having a drug and alcohol policy will help set clear guidelines for employees to follow with regards to substance abuse. It will also allows employers to exercise their right to compel workers to undergo drug screening.

Cocaine drug testing

Cocaine screening is usually done using these methods:

Urine drug testing
  • Urine testing – This is one of the most common methods of testing not only for cocaine, but for a host of other substances as well. Considered the most affordable of all cocaine drug testing methods, urine can detect traces of cocaine for up to a week. It is, however, regarded by some as an invasive way of cocaine testing
  • Saliva testing – This type of testing may be a bit more expensive than urine tests, but many employers are switching to this cocaine drug testing method because it’s regarded as one of the least invasive. Easily administered, saliva cocaine testing can detect use primarily within the past few days, and is better than most methods at detecting more recent use.
  • Hair testing – Easily the one of the most expensive cocaine testing methods, hair testing, however, is better at detecting cocaine use over a longer period. In fact, with hair testing, brief breaks from using cocaine have little to no bearing on the results. It does not usually detect use within the last few days though.

Tips for Cocaine Drug Testing in the Workplace

Unless you’re a trained physician, no one in the workplace has the skills and training necessary to screen colleagues for potential cocaine abuse. However, there are visible signs and symptoms that could indicate a drug problem. Some of these signs and symptoms of substance abuse are:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny nose and/or nosebleeds from snorting cocaine
  • Track marks from injecting cocaine
  • Burned lips or fingers from smoking cocaine
  • Licking their lips frequently
  • Restless and unable to sit or stand still
  • Talking endlessly, with topics unrelated to one another
  • Irritable, argumentative, and overflowing with confidence

Establishing a Comprehensive Cocaine Safe Workplace Program

There is simply no better way to protect your business and the people who work for you than to develop and implement a solid drug and alcohol policy. The guidelines should include awareness programs, staff education and cocaine drug testing programs. Safework Laboratories can help you with all of that.

If you are interested in developing a comprehensive safe workplace program for your business, contact us today for a confidential discussion.