Drug Testing Should Focus on Chronic, Not Casual Drug Users, Study Says 10/19/01

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(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)

Casual drug use has no significant impact on employment status and therefore should not be the focus of workplace drug testing programs, according to a study published this week in the Southern Economic Journal.

"Non-chronic drug use was not significantly related to employment or labor force participation," researchers at the University of Miami's Health Services Research Center found. "These findings suggest that workplace policies for illicit drug use should consider chronic or problem drug users apart from light or casual users."

Authors did conclude that chronic illicit drug use contributed negatively to workplace performance. They suggested that ideal workplace drug testing procedures should focus chiefly on problem users similar to the way many offices differentiate between casual drinkers and alcoholics. According to the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 70% of illicit drug users age 18 to 49 are employed full time.

The Miami study is one of several calling into question the effectiveness of standard drug testing programs -- primarily urinalysis -- that detect the presence of non-psychoactive drug metabolites (mostly for marijuana), but not impairment.

A 1994 study by the National Academy of Sciences concluded, "If an organization's goal is to avoid work decrement (e.g. accidental injuries, performance level) due to impairment, then research should be conducted on the utility of performance tests prior to starting work as an alternative to alcohol and other drug tests." Researchers further added, "Despite beliefs to the contrary, ... [there exists] no evidence from properly controlled studies that employment drug testing programs widely discourage drug use or encourage rehabilitation."

In addition, a 1998 study by the Le Moyne College Institute of Industrial Relations of 63 "high-tech" firms found that pre-employment and random drug screening procedures resulted in a significant loss of worker productivity and appeared to create "a negative work environment" for employees.

Recent drug testing data compiled by Quest Diagnostics indicate that more than 60% of all positive workplace drug tests are for marijuana only. Because urine tests detect a metabolized by-product of marijuana and not the drug itself, marijuana smokers may test positive days or even weeks after using it. By comparison, cocaine -- the second most commonly detected drug - typically will wash out of the system within 48 hours.

Visit http://www.okstate.edu/economics/journal/south1.html to read an abstract of the study online.

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Issue #207, 10/19/01 HEA Campaign Update and SSDP Conference | Drug Warriors Eye Colombia's FARC as Possible Target in War on Terror | Colorado Poll Finds War on Drugs Ineffective, Voters See Drugs as Health, Not Police Problem | San Diego Needle Exchange Program Inches Closer to Reality -- Close City Council Vote Looming | Bolivia: Violence Continues, Mediation Commission Formed | Another Court Rejects Cincinnati "Drug Zones" as Unconstitutional | Newsbrief: Senate Committee Votes to Lift DC Needle Exchange Funding Ban | Newsbrief: British Researchers Discover Kids Like to Party | Drug Testing Should Focus on Chronic, Not Casual Drug Users, Study Says | Newsbrief: Sales of Anti-Depressants Surge in New York and Washington | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Drug Czar Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
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