ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Drug Testing in the Workplace

Updated on September 4, 2019
Employees at some companies undergo mandatory drug testing.
Employees at some companies undergo mandatory drug testing.

Mandatory Drug Testing in the Workplace

Employers are legally allowed—and sometimes required—to test employees for drugs. In some safety-sensitive professions, such as driving or working with heavy machinery, employers test not just for illegal drugs, but for legal prescription drugs, too. Employers who give drug tests make the case that workers who use drugs are less safe, less productive at work, and more likely to be absent. Many opponents of the policy disagree, stating that it's ineffective, invades privacy, and is discriminatory.

Is Employee Drug-Testing Effective?

A 1999 booklet published by the American Civil Liberties Union makes a strong case against drug testing by offering evidence that drug testing is not cost-effective. First, very few companies perform any cost-benefit analyses of drug-testing. Second, many of the frequently quoted statistics about loss of productivity in the workplace due to drug use are not actually backed up with evidence. Third, several studies show that drug testing prior to employment does not predict future behavior in the workplace. Fourth, correlation between absenteeism and termination are linked with drug-use, but potentially because they are also linked with age.

Employee Morale & Privacy Concerns of Drug Testing

Workplace drug screening can also create a negative work environment. It can be demeaning and embarrassing to undergo the drug test, which may involve peeing in a cup. Drug tests sometimes require employees to write a list of over-the-counter and prescription drugs they have recently used so that they don't show up on the drug test as false positives. Revealing recent or long-term illnesses can be both embarrassing and an invasion of privacy.

Potential for False Positives

Drug testing isn't foolproof—there is ample opportunity for a false positive, which can create unneeded stress and embarrassment for an employee who may fear for his or her job. Particular foods, medicine, nutritional supplements and makeup can all result in false positives. Some people can get a false positive drug test at work after being exposed to second-hand drugs, especially smoked drugs, in their environment. As always, there is also the possibility of human error.

Drug Testing and Discrimination

Is drug testing discrimination? There is considerable debate about whether or not drug addiction is a brain disease. If it is, it may be considered a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act limits testing of alcohol because alcoholism is considered a disability. Illegal drug addiction is not considered a disability, though this designation may be inaccurate. In the case of prescription drugs, identifying and terminating employees based on their use of drugs for medical conditions could be considered discrimination. (See The New York Times article "Drug Testing Poses Quandary for Employers" for a more in-depth look at prescription drugs and the workplace.)


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)