Posted By:

Cheryl Miles on October 22, 2015

When Is It Necessary to Test for Drugs and Alcohol?

If your employees abuse drugs and alcohol, it can negatively impact your business in several ways. It can increase the number of accidents, lead to a higher absenteeism rate and reduce productivity. As a result, many employers choose to test for drugs and alcohol with the hopes of minimizing or eliminating the problem. If you’re considering going this route, here is some information concerning the legalities surrounding testing and the pros and cons of implementing a program.


Laws Regarding Employee Drug/Alcohol Testing

When it comes to Federal law, the majority of employers who are not heavily regulated by the government are not required to administer drug testing. As a result, it’s usually up to the employer as to whether or not they want to have an employee drug/alcohol testing program. If you do wish to conduct testing, then it’s crucial that you follow state regulations to ensure that you follow correct procedures, ensure accuracy and prevent workplace discrimination.

Examples of correct procedure include informing applicants that drug/alcohol testing is part of the hiring process, ensuring that tests are administered by a state-certified laboratory, testing all individuals the same way, etc. For more information, you can find a full breakdown of these regulations on the State Drug Testing Laws form.


Reasons for Drug/Alcohol Testing

One of the biggest reasons why employers choose to test is because of the number of employees who report heavily drug or alcohol use. A 2007 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 8.2 percent of full-time workers used illicit drugs, and 8.8 percent were heavy drinkers. These numbers were even higher among the younger demographic where 19 percent of employees between 18 and 25 used illicit drugs, and 16.3 were heavy drinkers.

If you or a trusted source have directly seen an employee using an illicit substance or drinking on the job or displaying erratic behavior, then testing is definitely in order.

Here are some other common reasons to perform testing:

  • It’s a Deterrent – You can weed-out individuals who could be problematic and a liability to your business.
  • Heightened Safety – You reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries.
  • Increased Attendance – The number of absent employees should decline.
  • Lower Health Insurance Costs – You’re likely to get hit with fewer workers’ compensation claims.


Reasons to Not Test

The cost of drug/alcohol testing is perhaps the biggest deterrent. Although the exact pricing on test kits can vary depending upon what type of sample is used and the specific drugs employees are being tested for, you’re typically going to end up paying around $20 to $25 per employee. If you test on a regular basis, then this can become a considerable expense.

Another issue is that not all drugs are easily detectable because they work themselves out of a user’s body within a short period of time. For instance, cocaine can only be detected if it was used within the past 2 to 10 days, and amphetamines can only be detected when used within the past 48 hours. Consequently, attempts to identify drug/alcohol use may at times be futile.

Finally, it can potentially create a rift between you and your employees if they feel like their privacy is being invaded. Although it’s perfectly legal in most cases, some individuals may feel like their rights are being violated.

Drug/alcohol abuse is an unfortunate problem that some employers are forced to deal with. By understanding the testing process, you can make the right decision for your business and keep employee drug/alcohol use in check.