Heliport drug tests

I know I’ll get lectured for asking this, but hopefully one of you can answer my question.

I recently started flying out of PHI Houma and know they do random drug screens and I’d like to know which DOT panel they use. I don’t use illegal drugs.

My company uses a 5 panel so I’m good on that one. However, I have a low dose benzo script that would likely show up on a 10 panel.

I need the medication to sleep. I’ve tried everything short of barbiturates so I don’t need to hear about melatonin, meditation or whatever. It is what it is and I’m not driving the boat or any critical position.

Can someone please tell me which test they use?

Thanks in advance.

PHI Heliport
3550 Taxi Rd. Houma, LA 70363
(985) 868-1705

I recomend you use someone else’s phone & call them. But if you have a thick upper north east or NY/NJ accent don’t bother.

If I’m not mistaken they ask if you are a Mariner or not, and if yes then it’s a 5 panel. If no, it may be a simpler test.
Regardless, you will get the phone call and so long as you have a valid prescription that you can share with the MRO or whomever calls you, you should be fine. Of course, your company may consider you guilty until proven innocent, so make sure you keep the prescription handy and that your company knows you are taking this prescribed medication

The Coast Guard requires the DOT 5 panel drug test. 46 CFR 16

The screen is for:
(1) Marijuana;
(2) Cocaine;
(3) Opiates;
(4) Phencyclidine (PCP); and
(5) Amphetamines.

You’ll only get lectured if your Captain is unaware that you’re on that medication.

If he’s not, you’re getting lectured for a good reason. I need to know if you’re on prescription medication. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in. Shits not a joke.

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You’ll likely do OK on the drug screen but how are you going to get the medication you need to your ship? I know a guy who got stopped at PHI because they found Claritin in an unmarked bottle in his baggage. Oddly enough the Claritin was given to him by the medic on board during his previous hitch due to an allergy They finally let him go to the ship after he disposed the Claritin, which he promptly got more of from the medic upon arriving at work. Knowing there was rampant Adderall use I asked a confidant how they got it on board. Lord, they had a lot of tricks. Under innersoles etc. The entire thing at PHI is just theater.

This kind of thing is one of the reasons that the oil patch needs to pay higher wages than anywhere else in order to attract enough Mariners.

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I was chatting to a few guys from a barge company from NY they were saying they couldnt get any staff as all failed drug tests…
I guess that pushes up wages…

Correct me if I am wrong but it seems in my experience the USA is the only country that drug test so strictly

That is complete bullshit.

I’ve seen statistics on the number of test failures. It’s been awhile, but the preemployment drug test failure rate for US mariners is very low, around 1% or 2%.

Could it be that NY Mariner pay has not kept up with NY living costs and is not competitive with other opportunities in the NY job market?

Mariners have not been able to afford to live in NY for quite sometime. Companies import mariners from places with lower costs of living.

Nowadays, not so many people want to be Mariners. There are a lot of reasons for this. Lack of constant high speed WiFi is a big one. The inability to use recreational drugs, particularly pot (which is legal in an increasing number of states) during time off is another reason.

There is a “shortage” of truck drivers too. The need to forego the use of pot and submit to drug tests is probably a significant factor.

Right now, just about everyone everywhere is short handed. I wonder if Covid has something to do with it?

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There will people on this site that have worked in many more countries than me but in Asia, had breathalyzer for getting on helicopter, sometimes and only from some airports.

But typical working with US crew, 50% of their luggage is medical stuff, not seen that anywhere else in the world.

I know in Singapore they do random breathalyser at the dock, even in yards, ouch!

USA mariners certainly get checked more than airline pilots worldwide, I assume in the USA too?
How about random test for congressmen when in Washington?

I do know that your office quite often asks the authorities to do a random and they always do it.

IMHO USA mariners have the poorest health of any, so lots of prescriptions.

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I agree with you about NY mariners pay not being sufficient to live in New York. From my experience there, many native New York/NE’ers mariners who worked NY harbor had wives who worked just as many hours as the husband/mariner to make ends meet while mariners from other parts of the country had homemakers wives or spouses who had part time hobby jobs to get out of the house. But I don’t blame drugs for that. I think rich money wants to live in those areas & not so smart bargaining committees keeps that area out of whack IMO.

About mariners & truck drivers being tested more than the rest of society. Its not the companies or USCG fault. It’s our US culture, the media & the drug users fault. Everytime a doped up/physically unfit pushboat captain kills a bunch of train passengers, we have an oil spill with a drunk pilot or a truck drivers snuffs out a whole family in a minivan it pisses Americans off. Then society & the media wants assurances it won’t happen again & we get the increased drug & alcohol tests. I don’t fully agree with MADD members but can’t blame the ones who lost sons & daughters to drunk drivers being filled with rage & hell bent on stopping as many drunk drivers as they can. Investors/companies just want to make money & doing it within the guidelines set by society.

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My understanding is that the US is the only country, or one of relatively few countries, where the government requires drug tests.I’m not convinced that drug testing is necessary or that it accomplishes much.

I’m told there are no drug tests for Mariner’s in Canada, or most other countries. They seem to be doing fine.

I have mixed feelings about drug testing. It’s intrusive, demeaning, and sometimes expensive. It offends my libertarian side. The tests do not detect many drugs. The tests are too easy to fake.

If drug testing provides any actual benefit, I suspect it’s relatively small compared to the costs, inconvenience, and erosion of civil liberties.

The biggest benefit to drug testing is that it does discourage some of the work cheap and play hard crowd. Hopefully, it does put some upward pressure on wages. In that sense, I’m all for it.

A lot more lives would be saved if all car drivers were tested.

If I have to be tested, I want everyone that receives a government check, including Congress and welfare recipients, to also be tested.


This is my observation also. Once drug testing and strict no-alcohol rules went into effect a generation ago, injuries radically decreased.

Example: back in the '80s and early '90s we had people fall into cargo holds. Once intoxicants were strictly banned, hold-falls disappeared. So, employers love drug testing. Bonus: captains don’t have to deal with the dysfunction of sailors sneaking off to bars.

Sailors should love the policy, too. Because when you artificially decrease the number of workers for a profession, the wages rise for everyone else, as employers try to outbid each other for workers. STCW did the same thing. When the USCG made it harder for people with criminal histories to get a MMC, wages rose for everyone else, because the eligible labor pool shrank.

Downside for maritime employers: the shrinking number of applicants. They are bidding for applicants from the same pool as those working a construction job, trucking, etc. In the old days a maritime employer could always hire some guy with a shady past and an MMC. A guy who wanted to lay-low at sea. Now, not so much. The USGC screens out most of the criminal types.

You have to hire the guys that every other employer wants, but the other employer might be perfectly fine with their employees smoking perfectly legal pot after work. And, that employee can also enjoy the most popular drug in America, Wifi, anytime, any place, ashore.

The net effect is that American sailors’ wages increase, as the number of them dwindles.


I won’t sail on boats without decent WiFi for the crew anymore, because I won’t be able to hire a decent crew.

It’s amazing to contemplate waiting in line for a payphone in 70 knot winds and hoping the guy in front of you doesn’t smash it because he’s mad at his cheating girlfriend, but it really wasn’t that long ago.


That sounds like the infamous “piss phone” on the wall outside the Unisea Inn. No one would give their place inline to go to the bathroom so they pissed right there. Windy days were better because it didn’t stink as much.


Having good WiFi is certainly a competitive advantage when hiring. There are probably a lot of guys who won’t work on a boat without good WiFi.


I’ve wondered just how hard the USCG screens people out for criminal history. It seems like not very hard at all.

A Progressive reform that is on the way is the expungement of criminal histories.

To a large extent this is necessary unless we want to keep criminals unemployable, locked up, and their families on welfare forever.

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I’m not sure about what country has the most stringent drug testing for offshore workers, but I know damn well we are not the most strict on illicit drugs coming across a domestic border - hence the testing. Not long ago, we had a blaster arrive onboard a rig with dilated pupils and acting fidgety. After receiving this report, a rapid drug test was performed under the reasonable suspension protocol. His test lit up like a Christmas tree. He admitted to being up all night after going to a club. He took XTC and crystal meth…not to mention he drove from Kentucky to South Louisiana prior to the helicopter flight.

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