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Your Employee Matters


By February 1, 2008No Comments

There’s been an ongoing debate on whether drug testing helps prevent drug use and workplace accidents. Today, the vast majority of employers engage in drug testing for new hires, “reasonable suspicion incidents,” and when required by the Department of Transportation. A study of the literature reveals these conclusions:

  1. Employees are highly resistant to giving urine samples without warning. Although many states still allow random drug testing, most do not. Bear in mind that federal statutes, such as those under Department of Transportation guidelines, require random drug testing.
  2. Employees tend to view companies that engage in random drug testing as being less employee-friendly. There’s a great deal of opposition to drug testing where it’s not limited to individuals performing dangerous or safety-sensitive work.
  3. Most employees view drug testing as justifiable only for current employees who seem to be under the influence or for job applicants. Employees find it distasteful to be subjected to post-accident testing in cases where the mishap clearly resulted from non-human error.
  4. There’s evidence that some high caliber job applicants refuse offers from organizations with offensive testing practices (this is the case even where the applicants don’t do drugs).
  5. Not only does drug testing elicit negative responses from most employees, there’s also a lack of definitive evidence that it helps to achieve organizational or productivity goals. In reality, many workers don’t do drugs on the job. Although proponents presume that testing will discourage drug use, the employees most deterred by the testing process are likely to be casual off-hour users who abstain from on-the-job use to avoid potential embarrassment and job loss. Since many addicts don’t have control over their drug intake, testing might not deter their substance abuse. As a result, it might be effective in pre-hire screening, but not in preventing current employees’ drug use in the workplace.
  6. Testing can only distinguish between somebody who has used, or been exposed to a drug, and someone who has not. It cannot tell when the drug was taken, how much was taken, how frequently it was taken, or the effect of the drug on the user.

Of course, employers want to know how they manage the two-thirds of people who do drugs that in fact have jobs. Perhaps the question should be: “What is it about the job that causes people to want to use drugs?” Is it too stressful? Too boring? Is there a culture of drug use? Does it emanate from the top? Or is the job simply so undesirable that it attracts the least desirable employee pool?”

The bottom line: It makes sense to do a post-offer, pre-hire employee physical that concludes with drug testing. Consider using Limit post-hire drug testing to random testing required by the DOT or other government programs and “reasonable suspicion” testing, whether there was an accident or not. To learn more about drug testing, go to Wikipedia, NIDA (, and SAMHSA (