Last updated: October 2, 2023
Marijuana legalization and COVID relief enticing workers to stay home and collect unemployment are just two of the reasons that some employers are debating whether or not to continue an employee drug test.
Pro-marijuana advocates are giving employers a hard time for continuing to test for the drug in states that have legalized it for medical or recreational use because drug tests identify drug metabolites. Metabolites are what’s left behind after the drug goes through the body’s metabolization process.
After smoking marijuana, the metabolites store themselves in the fat cells and users can test positive for days, weeks, and even months after stopping use if the person used the drug daily for a long period of time.
In regard to COVID concerns, with so many employers growing desperate for workers, some have considered discontinuing the pre-employment drug test and other drug testing policies. Of course, they’re hoping that by doing so, applicants will begin to respond to their help wanted ads.
We’d like to encourage employers everywhere to stand strong. All types of drug use have been on the rise throughout the pandemic. The numbers aren’t going to magically decrease now that the country is opening up again.
We’d like to share five reasons that it’s important to continue drug testing in the workplace.
According to the most recent survey conducted by American Addiction Centers, 22.5% of adults who participated admitted to using drugs or alcohol while at work. The breakdown between men and women is nearly the same. One in four men admitted to workplace drug or alcohol abuse versus one in five women.
The breakdown of those surveyed regarding recreational marijuana use in the workplace looked like this:
- 4.4% used marijuana in the workplace daily
- 4.3% used marijuana in the workplace twice a month
- 2.3% admitted to smoking marijuana in the workplace once or twice a year
- 6.9% said they had only smoked marijuana in the workplace once or twice—ever
- 4.73% confessed to smoking marijuana in the workplace weekly
Alcohol abuse topped the list by far though with 64% of women and 69.5% of men admitting that they have used alcohol during work hours.
Prescription drug use—whether under a doctor’s care or illicit was not determined—fell next in line.
- Adderall or Ritalin abuse ranked highest with 8.3% of women and 9.5% of men using in the workplace
- Valium ranked the women in the top spot at 6% and 4% of men admitting workplace use
- Oxycontin or Vicodin use in the workplace ranked at 9.7% women versus 12% men
- Codeine use in the workplace wound up the list with 9.3% of women versus 7.5% of men
Illicit drug use in the workplace ranked the lowest in the survey.
- 6.5% of men and 3% of women admitted to using cocaine in the workplace
- 1% of women and 1.5% of men have used heroin at work
- 5% of men and 3% of women surveyed had used methamphetamines on the job
An ounce of prevention
There is no doubt that the number one reason employers choose to drug test is for safety’s sake. Drug use—whether taken illicitly or prescribed by the doctor—affects both the cognitive and motor skills of the individual.
There is no job where it’s “safe” for someone to report to work when impaired by the use of drugs or alcohol. They could cause an accident harming themselves and anyone else who happens to be in their vicinity.
As employers, it’s our duty to ensure that our employees have the safest work environment that we can possibly provide for them. Drug testing is an excellent way to promote safety in the workplace.
Employees who cause an accident, are injured on the job, or get fired due to drug-related incidents might try to bring a lawsuit against you. When you drug test employees, you’re helping protect your company from liability.
This is a good place to mention that many states offer employers lower worker compensation premiums when they participate in a drug-free program. Additionally, any employee insurance benefits that you offer could be lower due to a drug-free program as well.
Lastly, drug testing employees can save you money in the long run because statistics show that productivity increases and you’ll have a lower turnover rate as well. That’s because drug addicts are known for not being able to commit to keeping a job for long periods of time.
Drug users are absent more often, see the doctor more frequently, and are late to work far more often than employees who don’t use drugs.
Deters drug use
It makes sense that when you implement a drug-free program, someone who uses drugs on a regular basis isn’t going to bother to apply for a job with your company.
The majority of employees don’t use drugs at work because they don’t use them at all. If someone uses drugs in a recreational sense, they may be tempted to do so on a weekend, but many won’t because of the threat of getting hit with a random drug test. Most adults value their jobs too much to risk losing them for a night of partying.
That phrase is often associated with someone who is ordered by a judge to give back to the community in some way.
Employers, though, are doing a huge service to the communities that they operate in by implementing drug-free programs. Of course, positions such as bus drivers are regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Employers of someone in the safety-sensitive workforce must adhere to the regulations they have in place by performing the DOT drug test.
Still, any employer is providing a service to the entire community when they drug test employees. Consumers appreciate knowing they can shop or obtain services that require coming into the home without concern as to whether or not they will encounter someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
But, the service to your community goes even deeper than that.
Recovery and rehabilitation
If an employee tests positive for drugs, odds are that your policy states that they will lose their jobs immediately.
That’s quite a wake-up call.
Hopefully, you exhibit true concern for the employee’s situation when it’s time to give them the bad news. You have a unique opportunity in the midst of the termination process.
The drug abuser’s family and friends have likely pleaded with them to stop using and get help. Those pleas often fall on deaf ears because the user is likely to rationalize the seriousness of their problem.
When you lose your job though…
Show compassion in these situations. Express your concern for their—and their family’s—well-being. Offer a list of treatment facilities available in your area and—if you haven’t already—consider offering your employees who find themselves in this situation a second chance.
No one wakes up one day and decides they want to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many people find themselves in that situation though.
Offering to give them back their job once they’ve successfully completed a rehabilitation program can be a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel from which they—and their family—had given up hope of ever finding a way out.
It can be the catalyst that gives the abuser the will to succeed. When you consider that fact in relation to the community as a whole, there’s no doubt that word’s going to get out that your company cares.
There’s no downside affiliated with that thought as far as we can see. How about you?