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Drug Testing In The Workplace

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Drug Testing in the Workplace

Throughout recent years, applicant drug testing has become one of the most prevalently used strategies by many organizations to control substance abuse in the workplace. Drug testing is a selection tool used by organizations to determine whether or not an individual has previously used drugs and/or alcohol. Most employers find that drug testing, if done correctly, is a worthwhile investment associated with increased workplace safety, lower absenteeism, fewer on-the-job accidents, improved productivity, lower theft rates, and less medical and workers' compensation expenses (Grondin 142). By identifying and screening out substance abusers, organizations believe that they are also screening out those individuals who generally do not exhibit ideal workplace behaviors (Heneman and Judge 459-460). According to the American Council on Drug Education, drug abusers are 10 time more likely to miss work than non-users. They are also 3.6 times more likely to be involved in accidents while on the job, 5 times more likely to file workers' compensation claims, and 33 percent less productive than those who do not abuse drugs. Additionally, research from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that "75 percent of all drug users are employed somewhere" (Cadrain 42). Such staggering statistics illustrate why most employers today consider drug testing to be one of their most valuable selection tools used when staffing their organizations.

According to Edward Poole, president and COO of OHS Health and Safety Services Inc., several studies have concluded that drug users in the workplace can cost employers approximately $11,000 to $13,000 each year (Smith 45). Likewise, the U.S. government estimates that "American companies lose $82 billion in productivity each year because of substance abuse" (Fahmy 1). Such overwhelming losses have prompted many employers to spend more time and money on the implementation of drug prevention programs. However, drug-testing programs may seem quite costly to some organizations. Estimates reveal that the U.S. spends $1 billion annually to drug test about 20 million workers (Shepard and Clifton 8). Furthermore, there has been much debate over whether or not the return from investing in drug testing programs outweigh the costs associated implementing them. Opponents of drug testing claim that there is not enough conclusive evidence indicating that positive test results are linked to poor job performance and negative workplace behaviors ("Are You Spending" 2). Moreover, those in opposition of drug testing claim they are not effective because experience drug users have developed various methods of cheating the tests that allow them to hold a job while working under the influence (Cadrain 42-43). On the contrary, the majority of firms support drug testing programs, claiming that their ability to screen out counterproductive work behavior is well worth the time and money it costs to conduct them (Grondin, 142). Poole uses the following example to demonstrate the cost/benefit analysis of drug testing: A company with 100 employees has a 30 percent annual turnover rate and incurs a cost of $44 per drug test. If the company tests all 30 hires and randomly drug tests 50 percent of its employees, then it is conducting 80 tests each year. If another 20 drug tests are added each year due post-accident or reasonable cause, the company is totaling 100 drug tests per year. "At $44 per test, that means the company is investing $4,400 per year in what would be a very highly effective drug-free workplace program," Poole declares (Smith 46). In addition to its favorable cost/benefit analysis, advocates of drug testing also claim that improved technology has made drug testing more reliable, while insurance discounts and government grants have made it less expensive (Fahmy 1). Also, a recent study supporting the use of drug testing programs demonstrates "a significant correlation between drug testing both for existing employees and during the pre-hire process and lower employee theft rates." Furthermore, the research also pointed out "a relationship between employee dismissals and drug testing, which suggested that some companies are effectively using pre-employment drug screening to reduce bad hires that later need to be dismissed" ("Drug Testing" 9).

Workplace drug testing has become a growing trend throughout organizations in the United States. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), 67 percent of U.S. corporations have drug-testing policies. Also, approximately 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies have implemented drug-testing policies, according to the Institute for a Drugfree Workplace (Cadrain 42). These statistics clearly demonstrate the importance to employers of maintaining a drug-free workplace. Furthermore, research indicates that organizations tend to differ in the way they implement their trust drug-testing policies according to company size, industry type, and occupation. Research demonstrates that there is a strong, positive relationship between the size of a company and the prevalence of a drug-testing policy (Hartwell et al. 36). In other words, large firms are more likely to use a drug-testing policy than small firms.

Additionally, the prevalence of drug-testing policies tends to differ by industry type. For example, employers in the transportation and nuclear power industries are required by federal law to conduct drug testing for all their employees (Cadrain 42). Recent research by Heneman and Judge states that drug testing is most commonly used in the retail industry and least commonly used in high-tech industries (460). Additional studies have indicated that drug testing is more likely to be used in the manufacturing, construction, government, and pharmaceutical industries and less likely to be used in service, financial, insurance, and real estate industries (Comer and Buda 134). Illustrating such contrasting industry propensities, the American Management Association reported the following percentages in their 2001 survey of companies on workplace surveillance and medical testing:

Companies Which Drug Test Employees

Business Category Testing of New Hires Testing of All Employees

Financial Services 35.8% 18.8%

Business & Professional Services 36.0% 18.4%

Other Services 60.3% 34.7%

Wholesale & Retail 63.0% 36.8%

Manufacturing 78.5% 42.2%

As the table above shows, the manufacturing, wholesale



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