Drug Testing Effectiveness

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Accidents on the job, absenteeism, and decreased productivity…

Introduce an effective drug testing program and employers are bound to see positive improvements. But will the employees feel the same way? Many will see testing as a violation of their rights and privacy. Is implementing such an invasive program worth the trouble of offending the workers? Will the tests be thorough enough for maintaining a safe work environment?

The Internet abounds with websites for and against drug testing. Yet ever since the pre-Web conception of drug testing in 1984[1], the pros and cons have been locked in a struggle. From preventing terrible workplace accidents to protecting an employee’s right to privacy, the positives and negatives create a very long list.

Such screening can allow for the prevention of hiring or of employees found using drugs. It may even reduce or eliminate worker habits for fear of getting caught and those repercussions.[2] Soon after drug testing in the workplace was instituted, the number of companies testing their employees nearly doubled, from 32 to over 62 percent and nearly one-fifth of employers noted changes in their workers’ output and attendance after implementing testing programs. [3]

Drug tests have generally always screened for the use of common “street drugs”, such as Marijuana, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Opiates, and Phencyclidine (PCP). However, the use of these illicit drugs has seen a decrease. While Marijuana is still the most used drug, the abuse of prescription pills has seen a dramatic increase recently, dropping cocaine down to third place. Employers must now take this shift in narcotic trends into consideration. They are beginning to develop tests for synthetic opiates such as Vicodin and Oxycodone, therefore it is important for employers, who chose to test their company, to keep up to date on current testing methods, drug trends, and how they can affect an employee’s output.

However, for all the facts supporting drug testing in the workplace, there are many that oppose it. A urine test is often the testing method of choice, and it is with this method that many find the most issue. Such a private activity is personal, and being required to provide such a sample can be perceived as extremely intrusive. Not only that, but a urine sample might disclose personal medical information not related to drug use.[4]

Another side that many argue is that drug tests are not an effective method for employees whose drug use does not hinder their performance on the job. Some drug users may have been using for long enough that their activities may appear unaffected. Yet even those who may function normally under the influence can still be prone to accidents. And if employers are found to have known about or hidden an employee’s drug use, lawsuits are bound to ensue.[5]

Finally, the debate over drug testing effectiveness and privacy invasiveness can come down to its ethical issues. Americans love their privacy and their right to it. Yet could it not be argued that employers have a moral obligation to prevent their employees from injury whenever possible? It has been recorded that companies experience higher rates of absenteeism and job-related accidents due to drug use and substance abuse which can also cost a company millions of dollars. [6]

This may be an argument that cannot ever be conclusively resolved. Employees will always want to protect their right to privacy and employers will always want efficient and accident-free environments. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Employer to determine what kind of policy towards drugs they will adopt. Whether it is punishments for first time offenses or zero tolerance, there are ways to create compromises so both the voices of the workers and employers can be heard.

For more information on setting up a drug-testing program or simply to get more information on both sides of this argument, please visit some of the links provided below:








[1] http://workrights.us/?products=drug-testing-in-the-workplace

[2] http://www.nber.org/digest/mar00/w7383.html

[3] http://ohsonline.com/articles/2012/10/01/drug-testing-promotes-workplace-safety.aspx

[4] http://workrights.us/?products=drug-testing-in-the-workplace

[5] http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v1n1/test.html

[6] http://www.dfaf.org/content/workplace-drug-testing-effective


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