Applicant undergoing workplace drug screening.

The Pros and Cons of Workplace Drug Testing

In today’s workplace culture, testing for drug use has become increasingly popular. Workplace drug testing comes in three forms: pre-employment drug testing, a random drug testing program, or when used to test employees if the employer has a reasonable suspicion of substance abuse

Reasonable suspicion comes in a number of forms, but often employers choose to drug test an employee if they receive credible information concerning that particular employee having a drug problem (or after a workplace accident/constant absenteeism). 

Proponents of workplace drug testing cite lowered accident and injury rates and overall positive results as the number one benefit of screening job candidates for drugs. 

While it is true that many on-the-job accidents are caused by alcohol and substance abusers, opponents argue that these injuries can actually increase when workers feel compelled to abuse drugs while at work to keep up with their non-using peers. 

Drug testing in the workplace doesn’t just help identify individuals under the influence of drugs. It can also provide proof of a worker’s commitment to a drug-free workplace and the safety of fellow employees and the public. The way in which companies implement their drug testing policies can vary, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of drug testing from an employer’s perspective. 

Forms of Drug Testing

Regardless of when or why a drug test is performed, there are different methods used when gathering a sample from the individual to be tested. 

Urine Test

Urine testing remains the most commonly used drug test. It is easy to collect and can be tested for a wide range of different drugs. The main disadvantage of urine testing is that urine samples can potentially be manipulated to provide false drug test results if not monitored by a professional.  

Saliva Test

A saliva test, also known as an oral fluid test, is typically used in a reasonable suspicion situation, such as post-accident testing for illicit drugs. This is because a saliva test only tests for drug use within the past 48 hours. However, this method of collection makes it almost impossible to cheat this type of drug test.  

Hair Test

The third drug testing method is a hair test. Hair testing is often used in work environments where drug tests are regularly scheduled. Hair testing has a long detection window, so it’s a good way to detect habitual drug users. It is the most expensive form of drug test and also takes approximately 5 to 10 days from the time of drug use until it can be detected in hair. 

Pros of Drug Testing in the Workplace

There are many advantages to workplace drug testing, and most of them are fairly obvious, especially to business owners. 

1. A Safe Working Environment

The main reason for drug testing is workplace safety. Substance use can be a problem in the American workplace, and employees can be a danger to themselves, fellow employees, and customers if they are working under the impairment of drugs. 

Pre-employment drug screening also helps to keep possible drug abusers out of a company. 

2. Reducing A Company’s Liability

Even the most safety-sensitive companies will eventually experience an accident. But unfortunately, a company can be held liable if it did not maintain a safe working environment for its employees. Regularly scheduled drug screenings help find employees who might be a threat to safety due to drug or alcohol abuse

3. Saving Money

By using regular drug testing, companies avoid the high costs associated with legal fees, lost productivity, and possible damage to property or equipment by preventing accidents before they happen. 

Cons of Drug Testing in the Workplace

As with any argument, there is always another point of view. Here are some considerations to be aware of when it comes to workplace drug testing

1. Cost of Drug Testing

The main drawback of workplace drug testing is the burden of costs on the employer. Every drug test costs money, and that cost adds up when a company has dozens or hundreds of employees. Companies need to weigh the real costs of paying for drug testing against the potential savings due to prevention of accidents. 

2. Employee Privacy

Employers must always consider their employees’ privacy. Resentment and low morale among employees is common in companies that have mandatory regular drug testing

3. Legality of Cannabis

As of 2022, there are now 18 states in the United States (as well as the District of Columbia) where cannabis is legal for recreational use. Federal law, however, does not recognize the legitimacy of cannabis, whether recreational or medical. Companies in states with legal cannabis may lose strong, well-qualified candidates for positions simply because of their cannabis use. 

Drug Screening: The Debate Continues

With the advent of drug testing and its many technological advances, employers have an opportunity to protect their organizations and employees in a way that was never possible before. Even with that said, though, drug screening isn’t absolutely necessary for everyone. 

Companies need to carefully consider their reasons for testing and what they hope to accomplish by implementing drug testing. It’s also important for employers to stay educated about the latest technologies and practices regarding drug testing with the help of their human resources department.

When looking for a drug screening service for your workplace drug testing program, look for a provider with extensive knowledge of both drug testing practices and the local community. Meridian Healthcare can provide drug testing services at any of our facilities or on-site at an employer’s location. We can also provide pre-employment background checks and physicals. 

All tests are administered by certified lab and breath alcohol technicians to ensure accurate, reliable results. When it comes down to drug screening pros and cons, our professionals work alongside your business to lower your healthcare and workers compensation costs while promoting better on-the-job performance – finding just the right mix of employer and employee trust and safety.