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Why Employee Drug Screening Can Help Your Business

People often say to me, “Of course you believe in workplace drug testing!  That’s your business.”  They are correct.  It is my business.  However, I like to think that I am a trained social scientist.  I base my opinions, preventions, and treatments on empirical evidence; hard core data that show that a program works.  I have been involved in the world of substance abuse prevention and treatment for more than 15 years, and I have seen programs come and go like the weather.  The bottom line here is that employee drug testing works, an idea that the data overwhelmingly support.  Recent studies have shown that ensuring a drug-free workplace results in an increased bottom line and employee productivity, along with decreases in accidents, insurance premiums, workers’ compensation costs, absenteeism, and employee turnover.  According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in 1990, problems resulting from substance abuse cost American businesses an estimated $81.6 billion in lost productivity due to premature death ($37 billion) and illness ($44 billion) and the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association reported in 2012 that close to a trillion dollars a year are lost to drug abuse in our nation alone.

Drug testing of employees, as we know it today, is a relatively new tool used by businesses to evaluate prospective employees and promote a drug-free workplace.  In 1981, the crash of a U.S. Navy jet on the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier resulted in the death and injury of a number of enlisted men.  Drug testing revealed that drugs played a major role in this accident, and further testing showed rampant drug use in the military.  As a result, Ronald Reagan issued an executive order mandating a drug-free federal workplace.

In 1988, after extensive study, the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing was published, establishing a framework for workplace drug testing. Today, over 30 years after the Nimitz tragedy, employee drug testing is widely used by small companies and Fortune 500 companies alike.

Pre-employment and (for some industries) random drug testing programs can be set up with minimal effort, and at a cost far less than the potential consequences of having a single employee with a drug problem.  The first step in creating a drug testing program is to establish company policies and procedures.  These should include determining the type of testing that will be conducted, training and educating employees and supervisors, and setting guidelines for discipline in the event of a positive test.  Once that has been established, the practical side of the testing program must be explored.  There are a plethora of ways to conduct a testing program that will accommodate your company in terms of efficiency and budget. 

When thinking about whether a drug testing program is right for your business, consider these facts:  65 percent of all on the job accidents are related to substance abuse, and substance abusers utilize 16 times as many health care benefits and are six times more likely to file workers’ compensation claims than non-abusers.  That being the case, it is no wonder that most firms find eliminating the problem in the first place is well worth the time and money involved in establishing a drug testing program.