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Essays by KT

Drug Testing in the Workplace

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ENGL 101

09 Oct. 2006

Taxes, insurance rates, crime, health care costs, and prices. How can we prevent each of these from heightening? It’s simpler than it sounds. Implementing drug testing in workplaces can prevent this from occurring. Since drug abuse in the workplace can increase each of these, the prevention of drug abuse can in turn prevent unnecessary increases of such. I believe that drug testing should be required in every workplace.

Drug abuse affects everyone. Seventy-seven percent of Americans eighteen years and older who engage in illicit drug use are employed ("What Every Employer"). Drug abusers compromise the workplace in many ways: decrease in productivity, which leads to higher prices, increase in accidents, which leads to higher health care costs, and increase in medical claims, which leads to higher insurance rates. Drug addiction is a major cause of other crimes such as theft and embezzlement.

Those opposed to drug testing may believe it is not an employer’s business what an employee does outside of the workplace, but that’s exactly what it is—their business. Since drug abuse has such a large, negative impact on the business, employers should be concerned if their employees are involved with drugs. It is, after all, the employer’s responsibility to make sure the business is run, as de Bernardo says, "safely, profitably, and productively."

Employee drug abuse has a considerable effect on the workplace as well as the people outside of the workplace. This has been documented many times. Those who illicitly use drugs are 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more (de Bernardo), three times more likely to be late for work, and 2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal or time off (Lipman). This creates a lower productivity level. In fact, drug users who are employed are one-third less productive (de Bernardo). This lowered productivity level raises prices for consumers.

Employees who use drugs illegally are five times more likely to be injured in an accident off the job, which, in turn, affects attendance and performance on the job (de Bernardo). They are 3.6 times more likely to injure themselves or another person in a workplace accident (de Bernardo). This causes an increase in health care costs. In fact, employed drug users incur 300 percent higher medical costs (de Bernardo). This increases the health care costs for other employers as well. Illicit drug users are also five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim (de Bernardo), which, in turn, causes an increase in insurance rates.

Those opposed may also believe drug testing is infringing on the rights of those on the workforce. As de Bernardo states, "There is no Constitutional or other legally protected right to engage in illegal conduct in the privacy of one’s home or anyone else’s." Those looking for a job who do not abuse drugs have no reason to feel as though their rights are being violated.

Although some use drugs without losing control, only a few will never lose control. The ones who do, do unexpectedly. "They can be like a time bomb waiting to explode" (de Bernardo). Even a "mild" user can be a big risk in the workplace to themselves as well as others, creating friction other employees and putting the company’s customers at risk as well.

Many think drug testing doesn’t work. This is not true. If it is done correctly, drug testing is very accurate. The most common procedure is a two-step process. The first test is 97-99 percent accurate ("What Every Employer "). The second test—conducted only if the result of the first test is positive—is virtually 100 percent accurate ("What Every Employer"). Although beating a drug test is possible, the chances are very slim and getting slimmer all the time.

"False positives" can happen, also, but it is not very likely. In the rare case that this does occur, there is a legitimate reason for it, such as taking prescribed drugs. In this case, the medical review officer (MRO) would speak directly with the one involved and give them a chance to prove that the drugs found in their system were legitimately prescribed. If such proof were presented, their drug test would be officially reported to their employer by the MRO as negative ("What Every Employer").

Drug testing in the workplace is an effective way to prevent substance abuse. "’The workplace is perhaps the most affective place to reach people and change their lifestyles,’ says William F. Current, executive director, The American Council for Drug Education" (Lipman). Of course, drug testing costs money but not nearly as much as illicit drug users cost businesses. With about 8,500 employees and a variety of numbers of job applicants, Guardsmark spends several hundred thousand dollars each year on a drug-testing program. Although this is true, those at Guardsmark are convinced the money spent is worth it, compared to the costs of lost productivity, absenteeism, worker compensation payments, and other drug-related expenses (Lipman).

Drug testing is not required under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1998 ("Drug Testing"). Drug testing should be required in all workplaces. Performing drug tests in the workplace deters employees from abusing drugs and provides a safe workplace for themselves and other employees. So why isn’t such preventative action being taken? This could lower taxes, decrease insurance rates, lessen crime, reduce health care costs, and diminish prices.

Works Cited

de Bernardo, Mark A. "Drug Testing Improves the Workplace" Illegal Drugs 1998. Current Controversies: Illegal Drugs. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Thompson-Gale. Montcalm Community College Library. 03 Oct. 2006 <http://galenet.galegroup.com>.

"Drug Testing." U.S. Department of Labor in the 21st Century. 3 Oct. 2006. Elaws. 3 Oct. 2006 <http://www.dol.gov/elaws>.

Lipman, Ira A. "Employee Drug Testing Reduces Drug Abuse." Drug Abuse 1999. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Thompson-Gale. Montcalm Community College Library. 03 Oct. 2006 <http://galenet.galegroup.com>.

"What Every Employer Should Know About Drug-Abuse in the Workplace!" OHS Health & Safety Services, Inc.. (2004) 9 Oct. 2006 <http://www.ohsinc.com>.