Studying the association between workplace drug testing and worker drug use using the National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) from 2000 to 2001 and 2002. A multivariate logistic regression model is used to estimate the likelihood of marijuana use based on various workplace drug policies, including drug testing. Further questions pertaining to the penalty severity and likelihood of detection are asked to get an understanding of the association.
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Even after controlling for a wide range of employee and job characteristics, those whose employers administer drug tests have a significantly lower likelihood of reporting past month marijuana use. Variables indicating whether an organization has a drug-education program, an employee assistance program, or a simple written policy prohibiting substance abuse all have strong associations with substance abuse. Taking these other characteristics into account, we can reduce the testing differential, but not eliminate it completely. The use of marijuana is greatly reduced when workers suffer substantial penalties and are tested frequently.
Previous studies have suggested that workplace drug testing deters employees from using substances because of a large negative relationship between workplace drug testing and employee substance use. We found that omitted variables slightly overstate the estimates. The overall results remain highly consistent with the hypothesis, even when workplace drug testing appears to deter employee drug usage.
A review of National Research Council 1994 found that substance use at work can hurt productivity, cause absenteeism, and increase injury rates (National Research Council 1994). Due to these costs, employers have been implementing policies and programs to reduce employee substance abuse. Drug testing programs and written standards such as "Zero Tolerance" policies have become more common among employers in the past two decades, as well as education programs. According to the current report, 46 percent of workers report that their employers conduct drug tests, while another study indicates up to 90 percent of Fortune 200 companies conduct drug testing (Flynn 1999). These programs aim to discourage employees from consuming dangerous substances at work by raising the perceived cost of substance abuse at work.
Based on anecdotes, both supporters and opponents of workplace drug tests believe it discourages drug use among employees - which increased dramatically in the 1980s and stayed constant throughout the 1990s. The only studies that examined whether drug testing was effective at reducing employee drug use employed nationally representative data (Hoffmann and Larison, 1999; SAMHSA, 1999; and French, Roebuck, and Alexandre, 2004). Studies have found that employers testing for drugs reduce their employees' drug use. Researchers have interpreted negative correlations between testing and use as a deterrent effect.
Since the 1990s, drug testing has become increasingly common in the health care, workplace, and criminal justice systems. As a result of the ease of sampling, urine drug testing has been the most common method of analysis. Immunoassays are becoming more popular because they are simple to use and provide rapid results; however, these tests are not perfect. Unless second-level analysis, such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, is performed on results from immunoassays, they could have dangerous medical or social consequences. Amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine are the five substances that are subject to workplace testing according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Several substances, including alcohol, benzodiazepines, and tricyclic antidepressants, may produce false-positive and false-negative results in immunoassays. The author discusses other pitfalls, including adulteration, substitution, and diluting urine samples. The principles outlined in this article should minimize the possibility of misinterpreting urine drug screens.