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Web Alert: U.S. Expansion of Department of Transportation (DOT) Drug Screening to include Semi-Synthetic Opiates

23 January 2018

The DOT promulgated its final rule (82 FR 52229) to add hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and oxycodone to the "Opioids" section of the drug-testing panel. Beginning January 1, 2018, in addition to the existing DOT drug testing panel, mariners in safety-sensitive positions will also be tested for the four additional semi-synthetic opioids.

If a mariner tests positive for any of the semi-synthetic opioid drugs after December 31, 2017, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) will conduct an interview with the mariner to determine if there is a legitimate medical explanation for the result. If there is not legitimate medical explanation, the marine employer or sponsoring organizations is required by 46 CFR 16.201(b) to remove the mariner from performing regulated safety-sensitive duties and provide a list of qualified Substance Abuse Professionals (SAP) to the mariner. In accordance with 46 CFR 16.201(c), marine employers and sponsoring organizations are required to report positive test results of credentialed mariners to the U.S. Coast Guard.

For marine employers and sponsoring organizations there is no need to make any changes if their current drug testing policies refer to adhering to "DOT 49 Part 40." However, if the marine employer or sponsoring organizations lists the sub-categories of drugs tested under the 5-panel are listed "Opiates (codeine, heroin, & morphine)" and/or "Amphetamines (amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, MDEA), then the marine employers or sponsoring organizations need to change "Opiates" to "Opioids (codeine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone)" and "MDEA" will need to be removed from the list under Amphetamines. Likewise, if cut-off levels are listed in current policies, employers must update those cut-off levels. Again, employers may simply delete the cut-off levels completely and be in compliance if the DOT policy refers to adhering to "DOT 49 Part 40."

Mariners should also consult with their prescribing physician to discuss their safety-sensitive responsibilities in order to determine if continued use of these medications is appropriate. Mariners should ensure their prescribing physician knows what type of regulated, safety-sensitive work the mariner performs and discuss whether prescribed medications could impact transportation-related safety-sensitive work.

Mariners, marine employers, and sponsoring organizations may find additional information and guidance regarding these changes by DOT here

This Safety Advisory was developed by the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis. Questions or comments should be sent to: