What Employers Should Know About Workplace Drug Testing

workplace drug testingAs marijuana legalization and opioid issues have become more prevalent, the notable decline in drug testing has made a sudden trend upward. As drugs are legalized and workplaces begin to require higher skills, the trend is set to grow. Workplace drug testing can be essential to the safety and productivity of several industries.

While the economy is employing more workers than ever, drug testing is getting in the way. For some industries and licenses, it’s a matter of life and death. For others, it’s not so simple.

Workplace drug testing may help you lower insurance costs and improve safety standards, but it can cost you employees if you test for the wrong things. If you’re thinking about changing the policy at your workplace, here are some reasons to test.

Problems Workplace Drug Testing Can Help


If you’re seeing employee or department performance dip, it could be useful to think about drug testing. Drugs impair your cognitive abilities like reasoning, concentration, memory, and judgment. If your industry requires lots of quick thinking and readjusting for conditions, drugs can hurt your employees’ ability to do their job.

Drug users have trouble performing simple tasks when under the influence.

Efficiency can drop for lots of reasons. Don’t jump to conclusions or accuse your employees of anything. But if marijuana was recently decriminalized or if opioids have become a newsworthy issue in your region, consider ways of approaching the issue with testing.


If employees stop showing up to work or absenteeism and lateness increase, you might have a drug issue.

Because of the time and effort put into training and retaining employees, it may be a waste of money to invest in workers who don’t stick around. Turnover and layoffs affect the morale of your office, as coworkers see friends leaving or getting fired.

Think about why your employees are leaving, and if you feel it’s drug-related, introduce testing for new employees. Tests like those from Rapid Detect Inc allow you to get quick responses so that you don’t hold up the hiring process.

Accidents or Workplace Injuries

A good portion of disability claims are connected to drug or alcohol abuse. There is a much greater chance that people who abuse narcotics are likely to be involved in workplace accidents.

The slowed reaction times and cognitive impairment caused by drugs and alcohol are especially dangerous in modern factory or warehouse environments. Driving forklifts, trucks, and haulers around a job site while under the influence is dangerous for everyone.

Workplaces at the cutting edge of the tech industry are thankfully immune from these more tragic problems.

Crime At Work

People with addiction problems can act without regard for others. If they’re spending all of their money on their addiction, they might need to find ways to generate more money beyond their paycheck.

That can lead to all kinds of issues such as embezzlement, theft of personal belongings, or worse. People with drug or alcohol issues might conspire to steal from their company after hours.

But before you jump to testing all of your employees, you should know the limits of testing.

Problems With Testing

Marijuana Doesn’t Always Show Up Or May Tell You Nothing

If you’re looking to test your employees for marijuana, you might not get what you want from a single test. Marijuana is metabolized by the body differently for different people.

A fit male runner who smokes every morning before work might not show any kind of positive result because of their higher metabolism. A non-active female employee who spent her vacation week at a music festival but otherwise doesn’t use drugs might suddenly be flagged by a test.

In many cases, it’s only present for a week’s worth of time. While lots of sources have claimed for years that it can stay in your body for a month, hair testing is one of the only ways to see if someone smoked more than a couple of days ago.

Random Testing Is Beatable

Because of the importance of timing in drug testing, random testing might be the appropriate way to handle testing at your workplace.

The only hurdle is the need for concentrations of drugs and alcohol in blood or urine. Vitamin C, large amounts of water, or a whole lot of fruit juice can change the makeup of the blood or urine you’re getting from employees.

There are also synthetic urine substitutes that people can get online. You might have trouble getting the result you want with random testing.

False Positives

Be aware that if you’re testing employees who take prescription medications, you might end up seeing a false positive. Perfectly drug-free employees who grab a daily poppy seed bagel on the way into work might suddenly show up on your radar.

Before taking any action on results from workplace drug testing, be sure that you take the time to speak with a medical review officer. They can advise you on actions to take and tell you whether or not you might be looking at a false positive.

Many labs will use a chromatograph to determine which factors can lead to false positives. This mass spectrometry confirmation test will rule out any conflicts.

Remember that you’re dealing with sensitive issues and your employees are human beings that have rights and deserve respect. Handle any issues carefully with HR and speak directly to employees before making decisions.

Privacy and Workplace Drug Testing

Depending on the industry you work in, you should think about how your employees might feel being subject to drug testing. They might feel like it’s a violation of their rights and privacy. A software testing team that is performing well might be less of a priority than customer-facing or product distribution teams.

Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with local laws regarding workplace drug testing. While it may be a requirement for certain kinds of licensing, it’s not always legal for employers to require tests or take action as a result.

If you still have questions about workplace drug testing, contact us for more information on what steps you can take.