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Drug Testing for Your Job

Updated on October 3, 2015

The federal government protects patients medical rights. When a legal drug is mistaken for an illegal one and a patient must explain the legal drug and the use

Where is the line between privacy, protection , accountability and decency when it comes to drug testing at work? There are countless grey areas to address.
Where is the line between privacy, protection , accountability and decency when it comes to drug testing at work? There are countless grey areas to address. | Source
Prescription drugs used for medical conditions have the capability to fail a company drug test. Workers are not able to get a second chance to explain the difference in nearly all cases. This is very unfortunate.
Prescription drugs used for medical conditions have the capability to fail a company drug test. Workers are not able to get a second chance to explain the difference in nearly all cases. This is very unfortunate.

What about the person hired online to work? There are tons of companies hiring freelancers to take care of lots of their business. They are cheaper than in house personnel and work without benefits. Are they drug testing this batch of employees? Of course not. How does that work out for their company and policy guidelines where drugs are concerned?

The grey area of drug testing must be addressed and regulations created.

Many people are concerned with privacy issues surrounding drug testing for any job. Not only are the illegal substances displayed in results as illegal drugs in a workers system, but also legal prescription medication info is being shared with a third party. Should an employer know which workers take anxiety medication? A failure to explain to the boss, via a letter from a physician this is anxiety medication and not meth is needed to avoid being fired. It is a catch 22. In order to keep a job a worker must violate a right to privacy.

What about the worker on infertility meds? Will a promotion be passed to another simply because a maternity leave is possible in the future? The scenarios are enormous of how this is not simply a black and white question and the ramifications are quite large for countless.

What about the employee that has a couple of alcoholic beverages at lunch? They wont test positive for drugs and will bypass the process entirely. What do you do for these situations? Should they be held to the same standards?

How do you feel about drug testing in the workplace?

Is drug testing truly a reflection of illegal drug use by employees?

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Drug testing at work is prevalent in the workforce. More test for drugs than passing a physical examination

Along with a overall physical exam to verify if a worker is physically competent to do the work, nearly all jobs in the marketplace today administer a drug test as part of the employment pre-screening process.This is used as a precaution against unnecessarily endangering the public depending on what type or kind of work is being performed. It sounds great and the concept is wonderful when used correctly. Though, there are times when the action is moving further away from the original lawmakers intent than the average person imagines.

Is this a physical versus mental eval?

This particular type of pre employment commitment to a job offer has only been around for a couple of decades. When watching old movies and television shows like Mad Men it appeared as if drinking and smoking at work did not hamper the ability to do the job. Though, marketing is a far cry from driving a school bus or even a commuter passenger train.Whether or not or how many accidents have actually occurred as a result of illegal drugs has not been released as a case study. Since the war against drugs any use what so ever is frowned up in the very lease and punishable by jail time.

The campaign against them has escalated to the point where there are more companies asking drug testing for applicants than a pre-employment physical. Does this mean the guy who is smoking for cancer related reasons is more likely the the employee with the heart condition to wreck the bus full of children. The diabetic is is unable to see, but afraid to lose health insurance is still driving. Though, most admit she is drug free so it is okay. There are some things we are able to evaluate the administration and guidelines for employees subjected to them? Should you have to drug test for your job?

What does the law say?

The Supreme Court has ruled employers do have the right to test or ask for one from employees in their workforce for any job. The practice is acceptable according to the court before and during any employment.

Drug testing is not a violation of an individual’s civil rights of illegal search and seizure or the Fourth Amendment. Though some people today wonder if a person’s right to privacy is being violated by these measures. This is the federal level of law enforcement and interpretation. States differ on their stance for the practice.

States have taken the federal law that permits drug testing for employment and expanded it since the 1980s to include other things. They analyze recipients for food stamps, persons convicted of certain crimes, medical patients, convicted criminals on parole and other drug screening processes outside of simply being screened by an employer and a job.

Lots of the state activities surrounding the process are being challenged in the courts. people feel this is overstepping the boundaries of privacy. The outcomes of many of these proceedings is still being determined.

What are you testing for and what are you doing with the information?

There are some things to be aware of when companies take bodily fluid samples analysis. Although they are not violating your rights according to the law, when they take these to test them for drugs be personally concerned about the violation of your privacy. The feelings of many people is the violation takes place with the act. If it takes place more than once while working for a business, each time is a different occurrence. Ask what they are looking for with the procedure. There are several laws to protect employees from unnecessary or excessive tests.

Employers screening for drugs are not limited to illegal substances. Most are screening for any type of medication or substance they feel is an infringement of company guidelines. This method of vetting is the invasion of privacy or illegal search and seizure countless people are afraid of.

For an example, an employee taking a prescription medication for anxiety or a mental health disorder, like depression will have this info communicated to an employer. These are personal concerns many would not like their employer to know.

There are numerous legal prescription medications testing positive as an illegal substance in error. This affirmative response is a mistake and most of the time the issue is resolved in the end. Though the company now has medical info they did not have initially or an employee did not want to divulge. Is this an invasion of privacy?

What if I test positive by mistake?

Is it the company’s business who takes infertility medication? It will be exposed in a drug test. Would you like someone to know about the erectile dysfunction medication you take? Even if a person does not expose embarrassing drug info, it will be known after this scrutiny. What happened to HIPAA or the law keeping medical records private to everyone, but you?

If you choose not to let the company know about a particular situation beforehand and test positive when they vet, you will be out of a job. There are countless businesses that never give you the opportunity to respond or appeal a positive vetting. In these cases there are worse things than discussing medical information with the HR department. Immediate dismissal is usually the case.

What if you are passed over for a promotion because you have cancer drugs in your system? The employer knows you have the disease and questions if medical leave is in the future or worse. With this knowledge in hand you are not given the promotion. These are questions to ask because this evidence is being passed on to your employer or prospective employers and used negatively.

What medications test positive in error or give a false positive response?

There are other prescription medications that make a person test positive for an illegal substance when an employee is being vetted. The employee is not taking an illegal medication. These are prescribed by medical professionals. This is a false positive outcome or testing positive falsely.

A great example is patients suffering from ADD and taking attention deficit disorder meds will test positive for methamphetamine or mimic the street drug Meth on their results. To resolve the false positive issues the patient needs to have a medical record or a document from their doctor explaining why. The end result is they have a prescription for a medication containing a methamphetamine and not an illegal street drug. They have also shared they suffer from ADD.

Are you violating a patient’s rights by asking for or receiving this evidence as an employer? Do you tell them they tested positive and ask why or do you simply fire them? Do they miss out on getting hired and not know why? These are important questions to answer related to drug testing for a job.

Are there jobs where legal drugs get you fired?

There are some jobs which warrant a worker be mentally alert and aware regardless of their medical history. This means anything which disturbs judgment or decision making skills is forbidden. This is clearly outlined in a job description in most cases and there is no question before applying or working in a position about it. Let's say someone takes medication which slows reflexes and response time. They will be terrific in a receptionist position. This is not someone to work behind the controls of a commuter train or in the role of a brain surgeon. Would you want a surgeon sluggish during a four or five hour surgery?

Why test a person not applying for a job for drugs?

Drug testing welfare recipients is something I fail to understand? What is the point? When vetting an employee operating dangerous machinery or driving a school bus for an illegal substance there are valid reasons. The employees in these examples are incapable of working with impaired judgment. This is the logical reason behind the process and makes sense. Using food stamps to buy food is possible with judgment impaired from anxiety meds. The medication will not hamper the process.

Employees in these examples are a potential harm to others or themselves with decision making skills affected. This a no-no for a lots of reasons. What is logical about verifying a mother of two collecting food stamps passes with flying colors? Are we wasting precious tax dollars testing someone who has failed to pay their child support payments? This was not the intention of drug testing for a job. This is goes beyond invading privacy and some have even ventured this is a form of discrimination.

Other examples of testing for non job related activities

There are some insurance companies using the data to underwrite health insurance policy and rates. Testing positive for some drugs is still costly for non working activities. For instance, an insurance company will drug test employees of a company (Company A) applying for coverage. The testing reveals multiple employees take hypertension or high blood pressure medication, heart medications, asthma medications or even thyroid medications. They increase health insurance rates for that particular company based on this data.

The insurance company validates the process by sharing their verdict employees are more likely to use their insurance when they are taking these particular meds. They are more likely to have heart attacks, more doctor office visits, more cardiac care, etc or use the insurance. They will cost the insurance provider more money, possibly with the data on hand. Is this fair?

What about another company (Company B) where no employee takes these meds, but their family members do. A spouse or child tests positive if investigated for drug use, but the employee is not. If no employees for Company B test positive in this instance they get lower rates than Company A, but have the same drug testing results if all covered insurance members were tested. Is this a fair reflection of which patients will use the coverage? is this okay for setting rates? This is a real example of how insurance rates are set in numerous states.

What about alcohol?

Another argument being made for those concerned with the process is that drug testing does not investigate alcohol as a drug. You could potentially have a worker drinking four alcoholic beverages over the lunch hour and driving the school bus in the afternoon. A company will drug test this person all day long and never have a positive reaction. This means they are not violating the regulations or guidelines of the company.

Alcohol is documented as an even more deadly resource than lots of street drugs. Is this a fair assessment or comparison for the employee possibly using other drugs detected with the screening process versus the drinker?

What about nicotine?

Smoking is bad for your health, just like alcohol. Both are legal substances by law. Is nicotine a drug? Certain companies are now requiring all employees and new hires to be non-smokers. They screen for nicotine as well as other substances with drug testing. Alcohol is still not investigated, but nicotine is now on the list of drugs to get you hired or fired. Companies screening for nicotine more than any other are found in the health related field.

Plenty of non smokers are getting second hand smoke from their household or places they spend time. Are they penalized for their living conditions? There are still some places where smoking is permitted indoors, the casino is one. Are they penalized for gambling because of the law which permits indoor smoking at the casino? Is the person chewing tobacco also at risk of losing their position?

Searching for nicotine is typically performed with blood tests or hair samples. Is this even more intrusive than other types of screening processes? There are times when smoking is not recommended or permitted at work. Safety reasons prohibit smoking in lots of these cases. In the privacy home a worker is inspected and penalized for using a legal substance?

Countless countries around the world frown upon the decision America has made to look down on nicotine users. They feel the decision to smoke or chew as a personal choice, a legal choice and not company business.

Different types of tests

There are usually two types of testing to choose from for employees or applicants. Patients aka workers have blood or urine examined. There are also hair, sweat or saliva samples taken for drug testing analysis in some circumstances. However, the most common types are blood and urine for a number of reasons.

These are both the least expensive and show the fastest results of all of the choices. Blood is generally the most accurate. It is possible to tamper with urine prior to testing. A number of job applicants bring someone else’s urine for analysis or add a substance to it before the test is conducted. Kits to change the outcome are for sale around the country.

Beating the test

There are multiple retailers that market different types of concoctions to flush your system or change the outcome of a possibly negative test. These are effective according to various users. The absolute effectiveness of many of these is relatively uncertain and there is no guarantee attached to these substances that you can "beat" drug tests for your job. on the internet or even most local pharmacies and grocery stores offer these for a very competitive price.

Home drug tests have become increasingly available as drug testing has increased. Some of prospective employees use a home test to determine if they are showing positive for any substance before taking the test for a future employer or examined for your current job.

How far back do they look?

Hair test are great for detection purposes because they show substances for up to 3 months. Saliva, urine and blood vary for detection time. Detection time is measuring how recently or how long drugs are used by the person being examined. THC as well as sedatives or benzodiazepines stay in a person’s system the longest and are most likely to be identified before other drugs. A person recently out of rehab and clean for the last several months will lose a job if they are given the right type of test.

The most addictive drugs many people consider when they think of drug tests, Methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, only remain in the system 72 to 120 hours. Since the most highly addictive drugs don’t remain in the system for an extremely long period of time the pot smokers and anyone taking a sedative will generally be detected more often than those using more dangerous and addictive drugs. Occasional pot smokers generally bypass detection if they don’t use the drug for a week or two beforehand. Those smoking pot more often generally need to remain smoke free for 3 to 4 weeks to pass a drug screen.

In conclusion

The site indicates there are false positives that occur with countless drug tests, including some home screening ones purchased over the counter. With over 250 over the counter and prescription medications causing a positive result for illegal drugs, drug testing should really be re-evaluated as a whole.

The law that permits drug testing for your job was implemented over 20 years ago and there are some great things that have occurred with the process. However, there are still some fixes to be implemented to make certain we are not violating personal rights or using the drug testing for intents and purposes other than what it should be used for. Once the results are received, what is a company capable of doing and not doing with this information?

There are more questions than answers which is always disturbing for any policy or program.

The show The Doctors have created a forum to talk about drug testing children in the schools. Find out which side won out overall.

What happens next?

As more employers choose to drug test employees will they also spread to other areas of our daily lives? Should drug testing in schools be okay?

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Things continue to evolve around legalizing marijuana and how it affects workers

Lots of the opinions and much of the info was put together before legalization was passed in lots of states without a medical prescription.

Keep in mind with this particular type of legalization of marijuana there are folks in the workplace using it for recreational purposes. This means the question is even more dire and immediate to define guidelines for using drugs by employees. When is it legal? When is it not? This is state law, but not federal. Does this make a difference?

A number of states like Colorado took the time to work out the answers to these questions. Some folks are a little bent out of shape their child's Kindergarten teacher is using marijuana on Saturday and teaching on Monday. Though, she also could be having a ball drinking in a bar on Saturday and working on Monday. Is there a difference?

At home instant drug testing. These are safe secure and legal. For patients wondering if their prescriptions are giving false negative reports to business owner

© 2011 smcopywrite


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    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 6 years ago from all over the web

      dr cherie

      thank you for your comment. however, i do have to disagree with what a company will and will not test for. i worked for an insurance company for a number of years and they did test for everything. the insurance company used information such as whether or not you were on infertility medication as a reason to increase your insurance rates. they wanted to know how many people were on heart medication because by law they couldn't review your medical records. however, they could drug test you and discover information they couldn't get a hold of otherwise thanks to the patient privacy law, HIPPA. this particular company sent letters to employees asking why they were taking blood thinners, why they were taking cholesterol medication, etc.

      drug testing for all drugs is not expensive when done in bulk and certainly worth the cost to increase insurance health care rates.

      why would an insurance company need to know if a drug is being taken for an employee answering a telephone versus an employee driving a school bus? is drug testing necessary for 90% of your employees sitting behind a desk? why should someone need to say they are taking ritalin? should the employee taking birth control medication disclose this information also if they dont want to? what about the patient that is taking psychiatric medication? should they disclose this also?

      the ritalin patient that test positive for a job i dont have yet wont have the chance to tell a prospective employer. you tested positive for meth (when you were actually taking ritalin) before you got the job and you wont get the job-period. i am extremely passionate about patient privacy and think we shouldn't take an end run around it with this type of action.

      it reminds me of the patriot act and people assuming it would be used for terrorist and it has been abused by a number of people to discover anything and everything about people and taking the end run around our constitutional rights here in a country where we were once protected.

      thank you dr cherie for your wonderful comment and the opportunity to respond.

    • Dr. Cherie profile image

      Cherie Santasiero PhD 6 years ago from Hamburg, NY

      Hi smcopywrite,

      Very good article with good information. Our use of drug testing is for different reasons, but relates to one point I 'd like to make. We treat drug dependency and addiction and use one of the best urine testing there is.

      Companies do not care whether or not you are on fertility medication and they will not come across it in a test, because it would cost a fortune to test for that anyway. Every drug you test for, and amount of, is very expensive. Companies just want to know if an employee is doing/selling or taking drugs that can cause them and/or others harm, including but not limited to their company, i.e. causing compensation and disability claims, which cost the company a lot. That is why they just test for the illegal drugs and at certain levels that are considered problematic. They would also have to spend much more money on testing to minimal levels. As for having to say you are on Ritalin, that is one of the drawbacks of being on Ritalin, aside from its dangers. I would remind the employer that personal medical information is protected, and it is. If one is on Ritalin, they need to disclose it. If you don't want to, you probably won't get the job. It's better than saying "I'm on meth!"

      Thanks again for the information,

      Dr. Cherie

    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 6 years ago from all over the web

      thank you nick for your comment and insight. i agree with your thoughts and feelings on the matter.

    • inthenickoftime77 profile image

      inthenickoftime77 6 years ago from New Zealand, aka: Aotearoa, aka: The Land Of The Long White Cloud

      In the Company I work for, random drug testing is carried out throughout the year. Names of employees are pulled out of a hat. These are carried out for safety reasons due to the guy's occupations in the forestry & roading work. The tests are done on sight as are the tests carried out when a new employee in hired, therefore there is no room for manipulation of the urine sample. If there is an accident, the person is tested immediately for drugs,including alcohol. I know they are asked if they are taking any medication which could affect the outcome of the test, but it is only noted on their medical form and most of the time if it has had no consequences the employer doesn't even see it. Therefore the privacy issue is not that relevant. I agree with drug testing in these high risk jobs, as it not only keeps the individuals safe, but also their co-workers. I don't however see that drug testing needs to be carried out on an office worker that is not in any danger of injury, other than a paper cut !

    • smcopywrite profile image

      smcopywrite 6 years ago from all over the web

      i find it very disturbing that many people dont consider the privacy that is invaded with these types of tests performed by employers. of course, many assume this will not happen to them until it does. we need to address these issues now.

      thank you for your comment

    • Sneha Sunny profile image

      Sneha Sunny 6 years ago from India

      This must be taking away the privacy completely... I didn't knew about this. Definitely, as you mentioned that some can bring somebody else's urine or mix something intentionally for personal disputes and all. It has more drawbacks than usefulness.