Last updated: October 19, 2020
No one likes being drug tested. No one likes peeing in a cup, and there’s no question that the “war on drugs” has created quite a few social and cultural problems. At the same time, it’s a reality and a fact of life. Not all jobs in Atlanta ask for drug testing, but many of them do. If you’re looking for a job, you need to expect a drug test by default. You might also get drug tested if you’re injured on the job and seeking a worker’s comp claim. Some jobs even implement randomized drug tests, especially in sensitive occupations like healthcare.
People get upset over drug testing, whether or not they use drugs. Especially with cannabis legalization gaining ground—and increasing public recognition that not all drugs are identical in their effects, their addiction potential, and their ability to cause bodily harm—drug tests are controversial for many people. But you need to understand that in the working world, it’s something you need to deal with.
I’m not Mr. Mackey. This isn’t “drugs are bad, m’kay.” I’m not arguing about what should and should not be illegal, and I’m not even interested in making any value judgments about other people’s choices. What I’m saying to you is this: drug testing is something you just have to deal with. We perform drug tests for a living. We get angry letters and vitriol all the time from people who don’t agree with drug testing, and we’re tired of hearing the same flawed arguments over and over again. We’re ready to set the record straight.
Drug testing is NOT a violation of your rights
Many people would argue that drug testing is a violation of individual rights, but legally, this is not the case. Regardless of what you believe philosophically, drug testing isn’t covered under any legal definition of a citizen’s rights. The 4th Amendment, for instance, states the following: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This means that cops can’t kick down your door to make sure you don’t have any cocaine in there—not without probable cause. It also means that the government cannot force you to take a drug test for no reason. (They can, however, mandate drug testing as part of your probation.)
This does not cover drug tests for the purpose of employment. Companies are fully within their rights to require that their employees undergo drug testing, whether it’s prior to employment or at random intervals. A company is fully within its rights to decline to hire people who use illegal substances, and whether they choose to do so is fully within their discretion. A corporation is not the government.
We’re tired of hearing the fourth amendment argument, because it’s not legally valid. Please stop yelling at us about that. If you don’t like the way the law, and corporate guidelines view drugs, get involved in one of the many proactive moments that are trying to change things and make a case for some of these substances. Complaining to us isn’t going to fix anything.
Types of drug testing
Many people also don’t understand the differences between the various methods of testing for substances in someone’s system. Urine tests aren’t the only kind of drug test. Not only do different methods detect different things, but their sensitivities differ.
Drug tests do not detect a substance, they detect the metabolites that are generated by the body while the substance is processed. By looking for the presence of these metabolites, it can be determined whether you’ve used that substance recently.
Drug tests routinely cover the following classes of compounds:
- Cannabinoids (Cannabis and, in some cases, close analogs)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
Expanded tests may also look for others:
- Alcohol (this is rare outside of companies regulated by the Department of Transportation, but it’s fully within a company’s rights to prohibit you from drinking)
Drug tests don’t cover every single substance that can be used recreationally, and in some cases, you may be prescribed something that will produce a positive result. It’s important to produce proof if a doctor has prescribed you something like Adderall (an amphetamine), Oxycontin (an opioid pain medication), or medical marijuana.
Here’s a basic run-down of the different types of drug tests.
Urine tests, also called urinalysis, are simple and cost-effective, and they’re the most common type of drug test that you’ll be asked to undergo. It’s somewhat intrusive, but not as much as a blood test. Unless the testing is for legal reasons, you’ll probably have some privacy while you produce your sample. Urine tests can also be done at home, if you’re concerned about whether a substance you ingested is still in your system.
For the most part, urine tests detect substance use within the past week. There are exceptions, of course. THC, for example, can stay in your system for over a month. Many people who use non-THC substances on an occasional basis are able to simply abstain before a pre-employment drug test.
Saliva tests are a bit pricier than urine tests, but as they’re not very intrusive, they’re becoming more common. These can detect more recent use than other methods.
Hair tests are rather rare outside of a legal context, largely because they’re expensive. A hair test has a longer detection period than urine and saliva tests, sometimes months.
These are so costly that their use is quite rare. However, they’re incredibly accurate.
Drug testing is a fact of life
Corporations aren’t the government, and they have full right to require certain things of their employees. One of those things is a clean drug test. Whether or not you think that drug testing is ethically correct or philosophically justifiable, it’s a fact of life. For many jobs, you’ll be required to undergo urinalysis at least once. It’s important to understand what drug testing is, why companies require it, and that there isn’t really much you can do about it except seek employment elsewhere.