“Welcome to our team Mr. Dave Matthews. Here at Vandalay Industries, we take pride in hiring the highest caliber of workers such as yourself, and to ensure the safety of all our employees in the latex factory, we ask that you pee in to this plastic cup. ” While this may not be the best way to bring about a company’s drug testing policy to a new hire, the fact remains that in most every position today, if no urine sample is given, it translates into “no job for you! ” Drug testing, a once rare and uncommon policy, is now among many employers a requirement for any new or existing job position.
Although seen by some as an infringement on one’s constitutionally granted rights, companies who have adopted these policies say that it works to cut down on company revenue losses, reduces job-related injuries, and offers peace of mind for both employees and consumers alike. Nevertheless, those in opposition to drug testing argue that its costs far outweigh its benefits, saying that drug tests are unfair, unnecessary, and lead to a society where “Big Brother is watching over you” (Jussim 2).
Regardless of these unfounded accusations by opponents, the fact remains that drug testing is essential to a safe and productive drug-free work environment. What in the end do we have to fear of drug testing? Well, quite frankly, the drug-free have absolutely nothing to fear aside from temporary embarrassment, while the drug users have absolutely everything to fear, most importantly their job. It is this very idea that brings up one of the first advantages of drug testing, that of saving lives.
According to Grimsley, a staff writer from the Washington Post, “The risk of failing a drug test may actually cause some workers to give up illegal drugs entirely, particularly if they have just used them recreationally, and prods others to recognize they have a substance-abuse problem and seek help through company-provided employee assistance programs” (Grimsley 3). Supporting Grimsley’s statement, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration reports that in 1985, 9. 7% of Americans used marijuana and 3% used cocaine.
Since then, the numbers have dropped dramatically to 4. 7% and . 8% respectively. Furthermore, during that same period, the percentage of full-time employees testing positive for illicit drugs has fallen from 17. 5% to 7. 4% (Burn 4). This alone is evidence enough that drug testing is worthwhile and appropriate. It is estimated that employers lose up to $100 billion annually in lost productivity due to drug use. And on the average, it costs an employer only $25-$35 to test an employee for drugs, according to the American Management Association (Allison 1).
Because of this, employers site many other reasons for testing, such as smaller absentee rates, cheaper insurance rates, less medical claims, less theft, less job-related injuries and decreased risks of lawsuits (Jussim 12). A government study, which reveals that 1 out of 6 workers has a drug problem, also states that drug abusers on average: cost employers $7,000 to $10,000 per employee annually, cost companies 300% more in medical costs and benefits, are absent up to 16 times more often, and are 1/3 less productive (Drug Screening 1).
Another study shows that workers who are under the influence of drugs are 3. 6 times more likely to injure themselves or another person in a workplace accident. In addition, they are 2. 5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more, and five times more likely to file a workers compensation claim (Drug Test 1). ). For this reason, many employers have adopted drug-testing policies, as any cost in implementing and running new hire and random drug testing more than pays for itself (Burn 5).
It’s obvious to see why most employers like the idea of drug testing, but why should you and the average person be in favor of drug testing? Imagine you send little Johnny off on a trip to visit his grandparents who live 500 miles away in another state. You put your child on the plane rightly expecting him/her to reach the destination safely. Unbeknownst to you, however, the pilot of your child’s plane uses drugs on an occasional basis. The pilot, feeling as if he is in control of himself while high, decides to take a few hits before take-off.
The airlines never knew of his little habit, however, because neither pre-employment or random drug tests were ever given to this pilot, and this being his first time flying while high, neither was the co-pilot aware of his supposed “weekend only” habit. Consequently, the plane never reaches its destination. That being a scenario, let’s now look at a case. In 1987, 16 people were killed from the collision of two trains, where it was later revealed that one of the train’s engineers had been smoking marijuana before they collided.
In 1991, 8 people were killed in a New York subway in which the train’s driver later tested positive for drugs (Grimsley 4). In addition, people should be concerned as to whether their co-workers are using drugs. A study by the AMA shows that construction workers are among the category of employees reporting the highest usage rate of illegal drugs, with 15. 6% admitting to using them. Obviously, you don’t want a fellow construction worker who is high on marijuana or cocaine operating the crane that has 2 tons of metal loaded onto it.
In addition, employees who use drugs are more likely to steal from their employer, which in turn is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Albert C. Nelson of the Roanoke Times & World News writes this in response to Kent Willis of the ACLU, “Which of the following would Willis have confidence in if he or she refused to take a drug test: his doctor, his accountant, his lawyer, his pilot, his bus driver, his boss, his wife, his children? ” Nelson also adds, “I for one have no objection to taking a drug test. Would it be insulting? Hardly!
Would a drug test harm my ability to produce? Probably not. Why not? Because I have nothing to hide, be ashamed of or concerned about relative to drug testing” (Nelson 1). There are those out there, however, that feel drug testing has gone too far. One of the more commonly used arguments by opponents of drug testing is that “it is an invasion of privacy and that employers should not be allowed to dictate to workers about off-duty activities” (Grimsley 5). This argument may be a good one, except for the fact that these so called “off-duty activities” are illegal!
Also, members of the ACLU ask “whether recreational users of illegal drugs, who are not necessarily drug abusers, should be persecuted and perhaps fired if their drug use is not really a problem for their employers” (Grimsley 5). If it wasn’t a problem for their employer, then the employer would not be giving drug tests now would they. When employers state that they are a drug-free company, it doesn’t mean that the stocks of the company are drug-free, it means that the employees are drug-free, 100% of the time!
If an employee doesn’t like it, then fine, he or she can find a job elsewhere, where they and their co-workers are free to use drugs. I for one, am comforted by the fact that myself and my co-workers are working in a drug-free environment, how about you? On one web site, drug users have voiced their outrage towards the policy of drug testing by saying things like “ ‘Drug testing is keeping decent, hard working people out of jobs while alcoholics can run the explitive} country’” (Grimsley 5).
Now there’s a well-reasoned argument if I’ve ever seen one. You wonder if this guy was high while making this statement. First off, alcohol is not illegal, but more importantly, just because there may be a problem or loophole in one aspect of a program or policy, does this mean we should add another problem, drugs, into the equation. This is comparative to a little kid saying, “He gets to do it, why can’t I”? Another one of the more commonly used arguments by opponents of drug testing is that many times a test can give false results.
While this is true, for the initial testing at least, if anyone is found to have tested positive for drugs, a second analysis is done to give results of almost 100% accuracy. And even then, if the results are still found to be positive, a medical review officer will call you to determine whether there were any unusual circumstances, such as eating poppy seeds at some time prior to the test date, which have at times created a false positive. From there, the medical reviewer will make a final determination before contacting the employer with any results.
Also, it is recognized that people slip up and make mistakes in their life. It is for this reason that the Chamber of Commerce asks employers to give anyone who tests positive a second chance in addition to offering rehabilitation (Allison 2). And, for the most part, companies do this. Case in point, my former employer Smith’s did this for a store manager who tested positive for cocaine. She maintained that it was her first time using and that she had never planned on doing it again.
For this reason, they suspended her with pay for a month and required that she go through a substance abuse program. She returned, and as far as I know, never came up positive for drugs again. The whole point of drug testing is not to seclude people from society or to say that they are bad people. All it says is that employers who drug-test want and demand their employees be free of drugs. It is not in place to judge, but in place to maintain a drug-free work environment for all. Simple.