Unfortunately, we live in a world where drug abuse problems tend to happen more often than not. Many companies and employers lose huge amounts of money, productivity, and reputation due to employees who have drug abuse problems. This is why more and more companies and employers are starting to implement them in a regular hiring process or as random screening tests.
While the reasons for the screening of employees for drug abuse may be justified, there are still questions on whether this is legal or whether is it morally right to perform these kinds of tests.
Legally speaking many countries all over the world have different perspectives on whether employers can carry out drug/substance abuse testing on their employees. Some countries allow it, while others consider it as an interference with the personal freedom of the employees. However, generally speaking, there are still no specific rules on this matter.
The importance and benefits of employee drug screening
It’s important to say that these drug screening aren’t in any way going against the laws that protect employees. By conducting these tests employers aren’t invading employees’ privacy.
They are supposed to create a healthy and safe working environment for every employee and also decrease the number of people using drugs.
And yes, the employer will also have benefits from all this testing but the accent is primarily on the employees and their well-being.
Methods of drug testing
The kind of drug test that will be conducted depends solely on the employer – how the specimens for drug tests will be collected. Currently, there are four types of drug tests which include hair, urine, blood, and saliva tests. The important thing to know is that each of these methods has its pros and cons.
Collecting hair samples is the easiest and one of the least invasive drug screens. Hair testing is also a good choice for the detection of long term drug abuse. Unfortunately, this type of drug test can’t detect drug use within the past week and it’s not as cost-effective as others might be, plus it requires a certain amount of hair.
So the downside of a hair drug test is the window of detection – it doesn’t detect current impairment due to drug use but it detects drug use up to 90 days prior to the test.
Urine drug test, also known as UDS or urine drug screen is a painless easy to collect test. When it comes to the cost, it’s the least expensive of all the drug tests. This type of drug test is the most commonly used by employers to test their potential employees.
There are two types of urine drug tests – the first called immunoassay and a follow-up test called gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. This first type of screen gives results relatively quickly but it’s not without certain drawbacks. These drawbacks are the lack of detection of all opioids and false positives – gives positive results for drugs even though there has been no drug use.
This follow-up test is often more expensive and takes longer to get the results back but it rarely gives false positives.
Oral or saliva test, also known as a mouth swab drug test is as its name suggests a test that is performed by collecting saliva from the mouth. This test is noninvasive but more expensive.
This is thanks to the fact that saliva is easy to collect and it can show the recent use of drugs – during the previous two hours up to two days.
Finally, there is also a blood drug test. This is the most invasive one and it’s performed for amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, and so on. A blood drug test is the most accurate and extensive of all previous tests. This is because this test can give the exact level of drugs in the bloodstream and this process takes longer than all others.
Usually, blood tests aren’t used for random employee screening or in an employee hiring process, they are, however, used in legal investigations.
When to conduct drug screenings?
There are several reasons and scenarios of why an employer decides to conduct a drug test. The first one usually happens during pre-employment so that’s why it’s called a pre-employment drug test.
Post-accident testing also as its name suggests happens in case there has been a workplace accident. If the employer suspects that the accident happened due to employees’ drug use, they can require a drug test. This can happen only if there is a reasonable suspicion that the accident was due to illicit drug use.
Keep in mind that these are merely some of the scenarios that can require drug screening. There are also other reasons why an employer may request a drug test to be conducted.
Regardless of many different views on screening employees for drug abuse, it can’t be denied that they do benefit the employees. They protect them from the harmful work environment and give incentive for not using drugs.
They also protect employers as well. Those employers who follow drug testing regulations often benefit much more, just as their employees do.