With the controversy surrounding legalized marijuana use on states such as Colorado and Washington, employers who conduct pre-employment drug testing may be wondering whether the practice should fall by the wayside. In fact, companies that drug test are finding that record numbers of their potential new-hires are being eliminated from consideration.
However, this does not appear to have am impact on the unemployment rate among drug users.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), 70 percent of the estimated 14.8 million Americans that use drugs illegally are actually employed with marijuana being the most commonly used and abused illegal drug. This statistic also takes into account those who abuse prescription medication.
The question then becomes, what is to be gained from using pre-employment drug screening if the results seemingly eliminate good candidates?
1. Better Productivity
The NCADD lists tardiness, hangover and withdrawal affecting job performance and loss of efficiency as the most common effects of drug use in the workplace. This is true not only for those who use illegal drugs, but those who abuse prescription narcotics.
In a landmark study evaluating the economic cost of drug abuse, it was discovered that in 2002 alone drug abuse cost businesses $180.9 billion. The user’s preoccupation with obtaining and using substances at work combined with the likelihood that they will have trouble with supervisors and co-workers could have a potentially devastating effect on productivity, especially in small businesses.
2. Reduced Health Care Costs
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that use of illicit drugs costs $11 billion a year in health care costs alone. In 2009, out of nearly 4.6 million emergency room visits nationwide, 50 percent were due to adverse reactions to prescription medications and 45 percent involved drug abuse.
The NCADD has also found that employers who address drug and alcohol abuse with an Employment Assistance Program (EAP) experience reduced health care costs that more than offset the cost of the EAP.
3. Fewer Legal Problems
Aside from becoming an accessory to an illegal activity, companies that perform pre-employment drug screening experience fewer legal problems as a result of their employees’ drug use. Not only is someone who uses illegal drugs more likely to engage in illegal activities such as theft and selling drugs to other employees, an employer’s implication in the process can lead to lengthy and costly legal battles.
What is an appropriate drug testing policy?
In most states, a person can be drug tested as a condition of employment as long as all incoming employees are tested for drugs in the same way. Some states require posting a notification that the person will be subjected to a drug test in their job postings while others only allow drug tests as a condition of employment.
What is included in a pre-employment drug test?
What is commonly known as a five panel drug test typically tests for the five most common illegal drugs – marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, and PCP. The five panel test is the standard for urine drug testing and is the most common drug test in the workplace. A more extensive ten panel drug test covers those drugs tested in the five panel test plus benzodiazapines (such as Xanax), barbiturates, methadone, propoxyphene, and quaaludes.
What happens if a potential employee fails a pre-employment drug screening?
While many organizations use pre-employment drug testing as grounds for immediate disqualification for employment, many others offer candidates an opportunity to rebut the results of the testing. Producing a valid prescription from a physician, documenting recent drug treatment, or even admitting to recreational drug use gives the employer an opportunity to address the drug use in accordance with their company policy and legalities of their area.
In all, pre-employment drug testing saves time and more importantly money in the long-term health of the employee as well as the employer.