Drug Testing in the Workplace

Understanding the Crucial Need For Drug Testing in the Workplace

James Gunter

“The level of substance dependency in the UK means that it has become the 'addiction capital of Europe.' In fact, it is estimated that across the UK, there are 29.2 million drinking alcohol weekly. Moreover, research shows that in the last twelve months alone, 49% of UK residents had consumed alcohol & 36% had taken drugs” [1, 2]

Drug Testing Kits UK leads the way in on-site drug and alcohol testing across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. We are proud to be instrumental in helping countless companies, organisations, medical centres, and other institutions, avoid the clear and present danger of substance abuse in the workplace. A danger that can potentially cost lives, cause serious injury, destroy a company's or organisation's reputation, drive the latter in to bankruptcy, and result in heavy fines, huge legal costs, and even imprisonment.

The Main Types of Illegal Drugs & How They Make Users Act at Work


Cannabis is the most widely consumed illegal drug in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. It is plant-based, and can be smoked, vaped or added to food [1]. It has a broad range of effects, and affects users differently. Feeling high from cannabis can last from between 2 to 10 hours.

Factors Affecting How Long the Effects of Cannabis Lasts

  • The quantity the user consumes
  • The level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) it contains
  • The user's metabolism
  • The user's body weight and body fat percentage
  • Their tolerance level
  • If they have eaten

User Signs to Look Our For in the Workplace

  • Feeling 'stoned'
  • Happy and chilled out in one's own thoughts
  • Chatty
  • Giggly
  • Lethargic
  • Sleepy
  • Despondent
  • Anxious
  • Confused
  • Paranoid
  • Hungry
  • Sick
  • Under the impression that everything is slowing down [3].

The type of experience a user has is dependent on a number of factors, such as:

  • Whether they are outgoing or shy
  • Their current mood (for example, if they are feeling depressed, the cannabis is likely to make them feel worse)
  • The quantity of THC (the main psychoactive compound)
  • The quantity of CBD (which is believed to make users less inclined to feel anxious and paranoid)
  • The amount of cannabis the user takes
  • How frequently they use cannabis [3].

Employers, managers, and other senior staff, need to understand that cannabis changes how an employee thinks. Moreover, it may give them a different perspective on things, and can impact their judgement. - For example: users under the influence of cannabis, often think that their thoughts or conversations (whether good or bad), are far more deep or important (than they would be

ordinarily) [3].

Drug Testing Kits UK 'urine tests' can detect cannabis for approximately 3–30 days after use. Whereas Drug Testing Kits UK 'saliva tests' can detect cannabis for approximately 24 hours after use.


This is a highly addictive stimulant drug, which is made from the leaves of the coca plant, and ends up as a white powder. It has a long list of effects, and impacts individuals differently. The effects of cocaine are linked to how it is consumed. If a user snorts cocaine, the high peaks in approximately 20-30 minutes post-inhalation, and will last for approximately 2 hours. Conversely, if it is injected or smoked, its effects can reach their peak in as little as five minutes, and the high can last for under 60 minutes [4]. It can be taken various ways:

  • Inhaling it via the nose (snorting)
  • Smoking it (this form of cocaine is referred to as crack or freebase)
  • Dissolving it in water and then injecting it into a vein (shooting up)
  • Mixing it with heroin and injecting into a vein (speedballing) [4].

User Signs to Look Our For in the Workplace

  • Being noticeably wide awake
  • Happy
  • Excited
  • Animated
  • Chatty
  • Over confident
  • Arrogant
  • Edgy
  • Restless
  • Agitated
  • On top of their game
  • Having a rise in body temperature, making them feel hot
  • A faster heart beat
  • Feeling sick
  • Paranoid
  • Panicky and anxious
  • Doing things (that could be risky), which they wouldn’t ordinarily do
  • Increased sexual drive
  • No longer feeling hungry [4].

The effects of taking cocaine are very easy to spot, and employers, managers, and other senior staff, need to be mindful of these aforementioned signs.

Drugs Testing Kits latest UK 'saliva and urine tests' can usually detect cocaine for 2 to 10 days, after use.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

This is a synthetic recreational/club drug which is taken in the form of ecstasy pills or powder. It is classed as a stimulant and a hallucinogen; and is known for making users feel affectionate towards both the people they are with, and nearby strangers. As soon as someone has taken a dose of Ecstasy, around 30-45 minutes later, they will experience the effects which generally last between 3-6 hours. In order to extend and enhance the effects, users frequently pair Ecstasy with other drugs, such marijuana [5]. And this is one reason why Drug Testing Kits UK test multiple drugs simultaneously.

User Signs to Look Our For in the Workplace

  • Feeling Alert
  • Energised
  • Uninhibited
  • Chatty (often talking about things they wouldn't ordinarily discuss)
  • Anxious
  • Having confused episodes
  • Having panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Dilated (widened) pupils
  • Signs of nausea
  • An elevated heart beat
  • Increased body temperature
  • Moving or tightening the jaw muscles
  • Having tingling sensations [5].

MDMA can be detected in the body from one to 90 days. The length of time is dependent on the type of test, how often the ecstasy is used, and the user's unique physical characteristics. Drugs Testing UK offer the latest cutting-edge tests, which provide highly accurate results.


This is classed as a general anaesthetic, so to that end, it acts to reduce sensations within the body. The effects of ketamine can last for a couple of hours [6].

User Signs to Look Our For in the Workplace

  • Being in a detached, dream-like state
  • Slower
  • Happy
  • Relaxed
  • Confused
  • Agitated
  • Panic attacks
  • Damage to long and short-term memory
  • Depressive (if taken frequently)
  • Altered perception of time and space
  • Hallucinated
  • Feeling sick
  • Doesn't feel pain, (putting the user at risk of hurting both themselves and others in the workplace) [6].

Employers, managers, and other senior staff, should also be aware that ketamine can stop users from being able to move normally. Moreover, what they are saying, may not make sense. Of note: if a user takes too much ketamine, then they might lose their ability to move, and go into what is known as a ‘k-hole.’ This experience makes them feel as though their mind and body have separated, and that they are helpless, as they cannot do anything about it. – A very scary scenario which can occur in the workplace [6].

Ketamine can generally be detected for up to 14 days after use, by a Drugs Testing Kits UK 'urine test,' which simultaneously tests multiple drugs.

Speed (Methamphetamine)

This is a type of amphetamine. - A powerful and addictive central nervous system stimulant, which keeps users alert, and generates the release of high levels of dopamine. The latter is a brain chemical which is linked to pleasure and reward. Speed normally comes in the form of an off-white or pinkish powder, which in some instances, resembles small crystals. Speed can be taken orally, or it can be snorted, smoked, or injected. If it is smoked or injected, its effects are felt right away. Whereas, if is swallowed or snorted, its impact is felt within thirty minutes. Speed's effects can last up to 6 hours, depending on the dose [7.]

User Signs to Look Our For in the Workplace

  • Alert
  • Wide awake
  • Pumped up
  • Talkative
  • Energised
  • Excited
  • Panicky
  • Agitated
  • Anxious
  • Aggressive
  • Doesn't feel hungry when they normally would
  • In some instances, users can become delusional and psychotic. - Yet more dangerous scenarios for the workplace [7].

Amphetamines can generally be detected 72-96 hours after use, in a Drugs Testing Kits UK 'urine test,' which simultaneously tests multiple drugs.

The Most Common Drug Test in the UK

“The most common type of testing is urine. The presence of drugs can be detected in urine, for most drugs, for up to three or four days after use, although in the case of some drugs such as cannabis and benzodiazepine they can be detected for several weeks, especially after heavy use” [8].


[1]. Delamere (2022). “UK Drug Addiction Report 2022.”


[2]. Delamere (2021). “The UK Drug & Alcohol Use Survey 2021.”


[3]. Talk to Frank (2022). “Cannabis.”


[4]. Talk to Frank (2022). “Cocaine.”


[5]. Talk to Frank (2022). “Ecstasy.”


[6]. Talk to Frank (2022). “Ketamine.”


[7]. Talk to Frank (2022). “Speed.”


[8]. TUC (2019). “Drug Testing in the Workplace.”