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Drug and Alcohol Testing Program of the United States Coast Guard

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

The Drug and Alcohol Testing Program of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is a way to maintain a drug-free and safe working environment. It ensures that all marine personnel are performing their duties at their best, helping all passengers and cargo in the U.S. waterways to travel safely. The USCG complies with the Department of Transportation’s drug and alcohol testing program. The two agencies work together to help fight substance abuse in the workplace.

Here are important things to know about the DOT-USCG Drug and Alcohol Testing Program:

Who are subject to drug and alcohol testing?

According to USCG, all employees who are under the following duties are covered by the program:

  • Those on board a vessel working under the authority of a merchant mariner’s document or license of registry.
  • Employed or engaged on board a U.S. owned vessel and the vessel is employed, engaged, or operated by someone with a license, merchant mariner’s document, or certificate of registry.

Those who fall under these categories are called crewmembers and they are all subject to drug and alcohol testing.

When are crewmembers tested for prohibited substances?

According to DOT and USCG, crewmembers are subject to drug and alcohol testing, or more known as chemical testing, during pre-employment, random, periodic, reasonable suspicion, post serious marine incident (SMI), and return-to-duty (with follow-up tests).

What are the substance prohibitions of the USCG?

According to USCG, it is prohibited to use and possess illegal substances at all times; the following drugs are tested for during chemical testing: marijuana, cocaine, PCP, amphetamines, and opiates. On alcohol use, consumption of the substance 4 hours before and during duty is prohibited. In case of reasonable suspicion, a crewmember must undergo a chemical testing.

How are crewmembers tested for drugs and alcohol?

The USCG uses chemical testing when determining drug and alcohol use. It is a scientific test that analyzes blood, urine, breath, tissue, and bodily fluids to trace illegal drugs and alcohol in the body. A urine sample is needed, following the DOT urinalysis where the sample is split into two containers. One sample for the initial testing, the “split” is for a crewmember’s right to get a second opinion in case the first sample was tested positive.

The USCG doesn’t use a DOT alcohol screening test. The chemical testing already provides alcohol concentration from the specimen. However, all procedures are based on DOT regulations on collection and handling of specimens. Only authorized collectors are allowed to administer chemical testing.

What happens to crewmembers that violate the DOT-USCG prohibitions?

Those who are tested positive for prohibited substances are immediately removed from their duties. They have to talk to a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) before they can go back to work. The SAP will evaluate and determine if a crewmember is healthy enough to go back to work. As part of DOT’s drug and alcohol program, a crewmember caught positive can only return to duty after completion of a rehabilitation program set by the USCG.

For more information on the DOT-USCG drug and alcohol testing program, follow the link below:




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