Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Drug and alcohol screening

Drug and alcohol screening

Drug and alcohol screening protocol

We have now updated our drug screening protocol. The new protocol introduces increased risk management for practitioners being monitored for drug and alcohol misuse.

Under the protocol, all health practitioners who have restrictions on their registration linked to past substance abuse will have routine hair testing in addition to urine testing.

Independent expert Professor Olaf Drummer from Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine provided a Report - Testing for impairing substances in health care professionals (below) to ensure the approach to biological testing in the National Scheme was evidence based and up-to-date. This report has informed the development of the new protocol.

National collection and pathology service

Following recommendations from the expert report from Professor Drummer, Ahpra has engaged a single collection and pathology service that tests at the cut-off limits set by Ahpra rather than those set by the individual laboratories used in each state and territory.

The national pathology service provider, Scientific Diagnostic Services have collection arrangements in each state and territory. Implementation of the service will commence from September 2015 concurrently with the commencement of the drug and alcohol screening protocol.

Drug and alcohol misuse expert panel

To help us manage risk and ensure we are using the most up-to-date approaches for testing for drug and alcohol misuse, an expert panel has been established. The panel provides ongoing expert advice on the biological assessment, testing and monitoring of applicants and registrants with drug and/or alcohol misuse, including impairment.

The panel consists of experts in the treatment of drug and alcohol disorders, toxicology and forensic testing of biological samples. It provides advice on the Ahpra drug and alcohol screening protocol, testing methodologies, the schedule of drugs to be tested for, cut-off limits for testing and any necessary additions to the schedule.

Approved breath testing devices

Manufacturer Model Sampling mode
Lion Laboratories Limited SD400 Analyse mode
SD400 Touch Analyse mode
Draeger Safety Pacific Pty Ltd 5510 Automatic measurement
5820 Active mouthpiece
6820 Automatic measurement
7510 Fixed volume with factory settings
Alcolizer Technology Alcolizer LE5 Active test (mouthpiece) mode
Alcolizer HH3 Mouthpiece testing mode 

Calibration of breath-testing devices

To maintain the accuracy and reliability of the breath testing device, calibration of the instrument must be checked and/or adjusted in accordance with the maintenance instructions specific to the individual breath-testing device. This procedure must be conducted using approved and accredited calibration standards and procedures.

Breath testing devices must undergo a calibration check no less than every 6 months and registrants are to provide evidence that this requirement has been complied with.

The registrant is responsible for meeting the cost of instrument calibration. Registrants may contact the relevant manufacturer to discuss loan unit options while calibration of their instrument is completed. Loan units may be available from the manufacturer. If the registrant is not able to make alternate arrangements for breath testing whilst their approved device is undergoing calibration, they must not practise.

Breath testing logbook

Board approved breath test supervisors are to use the Ahpra breath testing logbook to record all tests undertaken as part of the registrant’s requirements. It is the responsibility of the registrant to ensure the logbook is submitted to Ahpra to confirm compliance.

Page reviewed 28/09/2022