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The SAMHSA estimates that the inclusion process could take more than a year

A federal drug advisory group has initiated the extensive process of adding fentanyl to the list of substances subject to drug testing for federal employees and truck drivers.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that the inclusion process could take more than a year. However, this sub-agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken action in response to the Opioid Abuse Prevention Act in Transportation. This legislation instructs the HHS to assess the feasibility of adding fentanyl to mandatory tests based on reliability and cost-effectiveness.

In October, SAMHSA published an announcement in the Federal Register, indicating its response to the Opioid Abuse Prevention Act and emphasizing that fentanyl is a significant concern for public safety, contributing substantially to overdose deaths in the United States.

According to Ron Flegel, Chairman of the SAMHSA Drug Testing Advisory Board, the prevalence of fentanyl in unregulated samples exceeds 1.9%, a figure that underscores the importance of considering the inclusion of this component in the drug testing panel for employees.

Board members also received updates on the progress of regulatory reviews that would enable drug analysis from hair samples. Flegel noted that the proposed rule is still under evaluation by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The proposed testing panel would also include norfentanyl, a key substance for identifying fentanyl consumers in urine samples.

The next meeting of the Drug Testing Advisory Board will be in the spring. Meanwhile, SAMHSA will collaborate with federal drug-related partners, including the Department of Transportation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Defense, to finalize details of new protocols related to fentanyl.

On another note, Flegel mentioned ongoing studies on the increasing legalization of marijuana in many states. The federal government has remained steadfast in not allowing recreational and medicinal marijuana use among employees, and the Department of Transportation also prohibits truck drivers from consuming marijuana.


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