The Benefits of Workplace Drug Tests

The growing number of people that are abusing drugs and alcohol has made the topic one of great concern for employers across the nation. When an employee substance abuse issue in unresolved it results in a hefty cost to the employer. When substance abusers are employees there is an increased risk for injury on the job, higher medical related costs, unnecessary absenteeism, and less productivity.
Many employers have decided to deal with this issue head on by screening potential employees for the presence of drugs or alcohol while others conduct random drug tests on their employees. Others only test when there is an on the job injury. Regardless, these are the employers that are less likely to employ people with a substance abuse problem. It has been proven that these employers see positive results.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that in the year 2011, there were nearly ten million U.S. employees over the age of 18 that were either substance abusers or addicts during the previous twelve month period. Further, around 70% of people with substance abuse problems are employed. These numbers are staggering.
Companies do not want to employ people with substance abuse problems as they are usually unreliable and they create an unnecessary risk to the company in regards to health and injury. These are the factors that cause workers' compensation rates to soar. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration say that these people have concentration problems, are inconsistent, and lack in productivity.
Several studies that have been conducted on a national level report that there are many more employees with substance abuse problems in companies that do not test for drugs. This indicates that the drug screens are a deterrent. However, some companies believe that drug testing is ineffective since many find ways to mask the drug abuse and also that many drugs leave the body swiftly, as with the case of alcohol and cocaine.
Many people know in advance that they will have to pass a drug screen so they will make sure that when they do take the test they are clean but that says nothing about upcoming days or months. Plus, a person could have been on a cocaine binge for days but within 72 hours the presence of cocaine is gone in the urine or blood.
Currently, fewer than 60% of employers conduct drug tests on all potential job candidates and close to 30% do not test at all. The bottom line is that those companies that do conduct drug testing and encourage a workplace that is free of drugs will be less likely to have substance abusing employees. Many times, employers will get deep discounts on their worker's compensation rates for conducting pre-employment or post-employment drug screenings.
Cheryl Hinneburg is the content writer for KLEAN Treatment Center, located in West Hollywood CA. She is also working on her MS in substance abuse counseling. Cheryl has a BBA from Baker College. Cheryl's specialty is in the field of drug addiction.

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  1. Part 1
    My post is part of a business ethics course I am taking. I would like to note that my thoughts are by no means meant to discourage people from seeking help for drug rehabilitation. As the article mentioned there are several benefits to drug testing in the workplace. However, the question to be raised is, whether these benefits are best achieved by drug testing.
    First, it is important to note that drug testing in the workplace can violate a person’s right to privacy. Drug testing gives the employer information about the employee’s out of work activities. Employees have a right to privacy which means what they do outside of work is their own business. As long as there is no more pressing right that needs to be fulfilled, such as preventing serious damage to others, drug testing does interfere with ones right to privacy (The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, 2013).
    The blog suggests that employers do not want to employ people with substance abuse issues. It also mentions that according to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health 70% of substance abusers are employed. This does not necessarily mean that this large group of important contributors to the workforce (which according to the blog is around 7 million) are dangerous and incompetent at their work. Rather, this statistic merely points out that people are rational creatures (Kantian ethics, n.d) and can freely choose to use drugs in a reasonable way that does not necessarily interfere with their job and should be left to manage their own private business.

  2. Part 2

    The article suggests two reasons I would like to discuss regarding why employers don’t want to hire employees with substance abuse issues. First, the article says it is more costly to hire employees with substance abuse issues. Second, it suggests employees with substance abuse issues create a less safe work environment.
    The first claim that substance abusers are costly to their employer needs to be looked at closely. An employer may receive a discount in worker’s compensation rates if they drug test their employees. Is it morally right to interfere with all employees’ rights to privacy by drug testing them so the employers can save money on premiums? If the employer can do that then why not test all employees’ health, for example. The healthier the employee, the less likely they are to take sick days and again, save money for the employer. Should the employer be allowed to look into how healthy employees eat? How many hours they sleep at night? And so on.
    The article claims that substance abusers are less productive than their non user colleagues, which can become costly to the employer. To better determine this, a productivity standard needs to be set to all employees. Any employee that performs below that standard should be looked at. At this stage drug testing may not be helpful. For example, a worker may have used drugs last night and come to work hung over. A drug test taken now may not detect the substance used last night. Another employee may have had a bad night’s sleep and come to work tired and was also less productive than usual. Should that employee be tested as well? As the article mentioned, drug tests may not always detect the use of drugs. If an employer is concerned with staff productivity, drug testing that brings about the knowledge of drug use, will not of itself improve productivity. Rather, other mechanisms such as staff training or just asking the employee why their productivity is lower would be of greater benefit (Desjardins & Duska, 2001). Furthermore, a situation may occur where an employee does use drugs, but they are stimulating ones that actually increase their productivity. Is this employee costly to the employer or actually an excellent worker?