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Pros & Cons of Drug Testing in the Workplace


fotolia_2147425_XSMore than 17 million people over age 18 were illicit drug users in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and more than 75 percent were currently employed. Thus, it is clear that drug testing is necessary to maintain a safe, drug-free workplace. Drug use can contribute to workplace accidents and cause an increase in absenteeism.

Increases Safety

Drug testing makes the workplace safer and increases employee confidence, according to It is always better to catch a drug or alcohol problem before an employee becomes a hazard. Knowing a drug-testing system is in place generally helps employees be more productive because they do not have to fear a drug- or alcohol-related incident jeopardizing their welfare in any way. Also, if workplace drug testing leads an employee to seek treatment, so much the better. Some employers may opt to refer anyone testing positive to a drug treatment program so that employee has a chance to become productive again.

Reduces Accidents

A drug-using employee is 3.6 times more likely to be involved in an accident, and five times more likely to make a worker’s compensation claim, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Impaired judgment can result in slow reaction times and misguided decisions, which may also lead to accidents.

Perhaps Costly

Drug testing may be expensive. Buying test kits in bulk may help, but they may not tolerate long storage periods. Hair analysis is the most expensive, but most comprehensive. Urine tests tend to be less expensive. Blood and saliva tests can detect active drug use anytime, making them most appropriate for determining drug use.

Possible Privacy Invasion

Employees are less receptive to random drug testing, perhaps perceiving it as an invasion of privacy because no probable cause exists. While random testing is legal in the workplace, some groups feel it violates an individual’s constitutional rights. Urine and hair tests only reveal certain aspects of past drug use, not current, illicit use that may have occurred on the job. It could be argued that a field sobriety test might be an alternative, particularly for suspected alcohol abuse, which is not often included in routine drug testing.

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