Chemical dependency and drug testing in the workplace.
Osterloh JD, Becker CE.
Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, School of Medicine, San Francisco.
Urine testing for drug use in the workplace is now widespread, with the prevalence of positive drug tests in the work force being 0% to 15%. The prevalence of marijuana use is highest, and this can be reliably tested. Though it is prudent to rid the workplace of drug use, there is little scientific study on the relationship of drug use and workplace outcomes, such as productivity and safety. Probable-cause testing and preemployment testing are the most common applications. Random testing has been less accepted owing to its higher costs, unresolved legal issues, and predictably poor test reliability. Legal issues have focused on the right to policy, discrimination, and the lack of due process. The legal cornerstone of a good program is a policy that is planned and agreed on by both labor and management, which serves both as a contract and as a procedure in which expectations and consequences are known. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is certifying laboratories doing employee drug testing. Testing methods when done correctly are less prone to error than in the past, but screening tests can be defeated by adulterants. Although the incidence of false-positive results is low, such tests are less reliable when the prevalence of drug abuse is also low.