Everything You Need To Know About Workplace Drug Testing

The goal of any company is to be able to provide quality service to its clients. One of the factors that could make this possible is by having a carefully thought of plan on how to deliver their services in a way that the employees would be encouraged and become more productive. Productivity is affected by many factors, one of which is having a safe workplace environment.

Workplace drug testing is not something that can be implemented instantly. A program needs to be carefully thought of to ensure that the workplace will be safe for all concerned. This article should be able to provide information that you need to know about workplace drug testing.

workplace drug tesing

Drug Abuse in the Workplace

Drug abuse in the workplace affects not only its employees but also the company’s productivity and integrity. Using drugs impairs the ability to come up with the right decisions as well as physically handicaps people. It is definitely inappropriate to be in a place where drug abuse may lead to a large scale of inefficiency, productivity and safety.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), at least 68.9 percent of drug users are employed and active in the workplace. Illegal sale of drugs is not uncommon within the workplace. The Department of Labor and Workplace Development of Tennessee reported that at least a third of all employees are aware of this.

Both employer and employee suffer in this kind of environment. Roughly 10-20 percent of American workers who died at work have been found to be positive with drugs or alcohol. SAMHSA added that among the industries with high incidents of workplace drug abuse are mining and construction due to the nature of their jobs.

With the incidents of drug abuse in the workplace, employers suffer from hiring these people. It does not only increase the risk of having dangerous accidents to occur, but substance abuse cost employers a large amount of money that can hurt them financially.

Substance abuse may lead to the following:

  • Arrives late to the workplace
  • Have poor work performance
  • Does not stay in one workplace for too long
  • Struggles with productivity
  • File for worker’s compensation claims and benefits

Drugs Commonly Used In The Workplace

Drug use in the workplace is an expensive problem for businesses and various industries. This causes lost of productivity, injuries, absenteeism, theft, fatalities and low employee morale.

Drug abuse accounts for 50 percent of all on-the-job accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Employees who abuse drugs are absent from work at least 10 times more than non-using co-employers.

The following are the most commonly used drugs in the workplace:


This is said to be the top choice among drug users and has been increasing rapidly. With the legalization of marijuana is various states, this has posed a major concern for employers. When marijuana is used by workers, it does not only affect workplace behavior, but overall life in general.

The drug’s status as a medically legal substance is not an excuse to make employees exempted from drug-free workplace rules. Federal law preempts the state medical marijuana laws. Therefore marijuana users who are authorized under state law can still be subjected for drug testing.

Synthetic Drugs

These designer drugs have become common among younger adults. These substances are sold and used at parties, clubs, raves and music festivals.

Some users who were rushed to the hospital emergency departed reported that they are unaware that the drugs they took were not the drug that they thought they were. Most of these drugs were made to mimic prescription drugs but are sold at a much lower cost but may be more potent. There had been many incidents of drug-related deaths due to this.

The use of synthetic drugs may cause the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia
  • Kidney damage
  • Cardiac problems
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Other synthetic drugs were sold online hiding under unconventional names, and are advertised as energy-boosting pills. These substances have since been strictly guarded, as many teens have easy access to them, leading to an increase in the number of teen drug users in the country for a period of time.

Prescription Medicines

Opioids or painkillers are most often abused because of the “feel-good” effect that they can provide to users. It is estimated that about 2.4 million Americans in 2010 were abusing prescription medicines. Opioid medication acts as a pain-masking agent to help patients suffering from chronic pain, and is very commonly used by cancer patients. These drugs have a high potential for abuse. People who abuse opioids usually buy them from the black market or steal them from pain clinics.

Prescription medicines for anxiety, depression or insomnia include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics and tranquilizers. Once a user hits tolerance level, the next step is increasing the dose. This would then have severe reaction to the user’s system which may increase his risk of more physical and psychological irregularities that can lead to death.

Stimulants are common among college students and which are often referred to as “study drugs”.  Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed for treating patients with ADHD. Using this drug may have both short-term and long-term effects. Some people refer to the short-term results as the desirable effects needed in treating patients with ADHD, which includes:

  • Increasing the production of dopamine or norepinephrine which is responsible for boosting alertness, attention/focus and energy levels
  • Increases heart rate and blood flow to the muscles

With abuse, the following undesirable effects can happen:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression/Lethargic
  • Increased irritability
  • Decreased ability to concentrate


Alcohol is one substance that has affected so many working days due to alcohol-related illnesses, hangovers, and absenteeism. A study made in 2014 revealed that almost 15 million full-time employees in the U.S. were heavy drinkers. The frequent absences of these employees cost their employers so much because of low production, which means less money coming into their businesses.


Ironically, employees make their methamphetamine use as an excuse to boost their productivity. This drug is more common in the construction and manufacturing industries where workers are required to stay alert for long periods. Unfortunately, the use of meth has also been glamorized in pop culture due to its much more “fashionable” high.

Using meth may initially have some “positive effect” but may wear off after some time and turn users into a violent state, thereby increasing workplace violence (either verbal or physical). This happens when the negative effects such as irritability, anxiety and paranoia kick in.

corporate testing kit

Workplace Drug Testing

The only way that employers may be assured that the workplace is safe for all its employees and that the employees can be more efficient and productive is by providing workplace drug testing prior to hiring.

Drug testing works best when the policy is explained properly to all employees. An educational program should clearly inform the employees about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, train the supervisors to easily detect signs and symptoms of addiction among employees, and provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for employees who may have an alcohol or drug problem.

Federal agencies conducting drug testing follow a standardized procedure established by SAMHSA. Private employers are not required to follow the guidelines, although, doing so can help them stay on safe legal ground. The Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing include having a Medical Review Officer (MRO) evaluate tests. They are to identify the five substances with the use of certified drug labs by SAMHSA.

The most common method of drug testing is urinalysis, which may be done at the workplace, at a doctor’s office, or any other site preferred by the employer. An applicant or employee provides a urine sample to be tested. Drug testing areas make use of precautionary measures such as putting blue dye in the toilet and turning off the water supply. Some drug users will try to tamper their samples to have a false negative result for the presence of drugs.

There should be clear documentation in handling and storage of the sample, from the time it is collected until the time it is disposed.

Most often, a split sample is created when an initial urine sample is split into two. One sample is used for initial screening. If the result turns positive, the second sample is used for the confirmation test. The confirmation test is done using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). This type of test is highly accurate and provides specificity to rule out false negatives from the initial screen.

Benefits of Workplace Drug Testing

Benefits of Workplace Drug Testing

The increase in the number of drug-related incidents in the workplace has pushed companies to use workplace drug testing due to the following reasons:

  • It promotes a safer working environment. This is very important most especially to those who are working with safety-sensitive jobs and handles hazardous chemicals as well as those who operate heavy machinery or drive company vehicles.
  • It helps reduce potential legal liability to employers. Workplace drug testing ensures that the workplace is healthy and safe for the employees. It helps identify those who may be using drugs or alcohol during work which can pose danger to everyone in the workplace. Any accident that happens in a workplace puts the employer liable most especially if the employer is unable to detect who are using drugs while working and has not ensured the safety of the employees.
  • It helps employees with drug problems. Along with the workplace drug testing, employers create an educational program wherein the employees are informed about alcohol and drug abuse and can also extend help to those employees suffering from alcohol and drug problems.
  • Safety in the workplace ensures productivity. The use of drugs impairs the decision-making capability of an individual which can also affect efficiency and productivity. By keeping a drug-free workplace, it ensures that all employees are able to perform better without fear of meeting accidents related to any substance abuse. This also eliminates frequent absences of employees due to alcohol drug abuse.
  • Recruitment cost becomes lower. When employers discover drug abuse among its employees, he will need to relieve them from work, which will lead to ending their days of work in the company. Hiring new applicants often may pose additional recruitment costs. With workplace drug testing, it ensures that all employees may be able to continue working efficiently without having to hire new employees too often.
  • It helps improve employees’ morale. This makes the employees feel that their safety is being valued by their employer.
  • It assists families to better handle the situation. It can extend help to family members of employees who are found to have substance abuse problems through the EAP. The assistance given could come in the form of counseling.
  • It could be used as a qualification for hiring. Pre-employment drug testing may be regarded as unnecessary because of its cost, but it could definitely filter out applicants with drug abuse problems prior to hiring.
  • It boosts the reputation of the organization. It shows how committed an employer is in providing a healthy and safe environment to his employees, therefore elevating customer trust and the company’s reputation.

Disadvantages of Workplace Drug Testing

Disadvantages of Workplace Drug Testing

While some employers may see workplace drug testing as a great opportunity to increase productivity and safety, some see it otherwise.

  • The costs can be too high. Not all companies can afford such. An employer may spend up to $40 per person. Employers could be spending more while waiting for the results of the tests of applicants.
  • Violation of privacy. Not all people may welcome the idea of being subjected to drug testing. Invasion of privacy and right to do whatever a person pleases may be a reason why some would not submit themselves to such testing. Legalization of marijuana use may not be welcomed in all states of the U.S. However, those authorized to use medical marijuana are not exempted to undergo drug testing. Those who may be found out to be using such substance may result to resentment among employees, which may lead to loss of interest, decrease in productivity, and lower company revenue.
  • Unfair dismissal suits may be filed by former employees against the company due to illegal termination. Employees released from their jobs may feel being discriminated and may lead to loss of self-esteem and loss of job opportunities as some people may brand them in a way that can destroy the user’s reputation.

Legality of Workplace Drug Testing

Different states may have laws regarding the proper timing, and procedures of drug and alcohol testing may have more protection than those living from other states with no testing laws. Employees living in states with no drug testing laws may generally be tested without advance notice.


Drug testing at work is a necessity. It is very important that we all live in a safe environment. The workplace should be as safe as possible to all employees to be able to provide good performance in their job that can help businesses meet the demands of their customers.

Drug testing may not be seen as something significant to some, but the drawbacks cannot outweigh the benefits. In fact, both the employers and his employees are on a win-win situation with a good workplace drug testing policy.

Any person who notices that a fellow employee may be involved in drug use should immediately give feedback to the employer so that accidents may be prevented. Drug testing applicants prior to hiring them is not meant to discriminate or shame them, but rather designed welcome them in a safe environment. After all, they seek for employment in order to sustain their daily needs.

Not keeping the workplace safe endangers not only the user’s health but also the safety of other employees working in the company. There should be no room for unsafe use of substances that may affect so many lives.

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Lena Butler

My name is Lena Butler. I live in San Diego, California. I work as a customer service representative for TestCountry.com. I attended the University of San Diego and majored in marketing. I enjoy spending time at home, working on my painting and playing with my two pet rabbits, Carl and Lenny, when I am not here sharing interesting posts :)

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