The Real Reason to Drug Test

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am an optimist, a Pollyanna of sorts. As a rule, I believe most people are honest, most people do their best for their employer and most people do not abuse drugs or alcohol. Having said that, you then have to ask, why drug test? 

I believe drug testing and effective background screening do have an excellent return on investment (ROI) however most of that is not immediately tangible, you must wait for the results. For your money, when you use a SAMHSA certified lab, an accredited Medical Review Officer, and a company specializing in drug test policy you will get a pretty good snapshot of the person you are hiring, but how they perform on the job is the real test. Over time, when you have spent less money on turnover and training costs, you find your money was well spent. 

I also like the fact that a post-offer drug test sends a very clear message to your new employee that you do not tolerate any drug use. When a company says they are “drug-free” but don’t back that up with a test, they are in fact, sending the opposite message ” We really don’t think being drug-free is all that important”. 

There are, of course, statistics that back up the claim that having a drug-free workplace result in fewer accidents and injuries, less absenteeism, greater productivity and increases morale on the job. These are all very good reasons to test and have a policy that allows for random, reasonable cause or post-accident testing.  But is the real reason? I hope not.  

Not all, but most people know someone, a friend, a family member, even a co-worker whose life was turned upside down by substance abuse. The second most helpless feeling in the world is watching someone you care about destroy themselves with drugs or alcohol and the first most helpless feeling in the world is seeing how it affects the innocent bystanders of that use, children, who are our collective future. 

It’s a hard cycle to break and can be carried on from generation to generation. The real costs are the associated social costs we all pay including housing subsidies, foster homes, child protective services, increased homelessness, and mental health issues, increased crime, increased incarceration, increased policing and social services costs, and increased subsidized medical costs.  

But what if we, collectively as business leaders, as a community could end this tragic cycle? It’s not a secret most people who have substance abuse disorders are not on the side of a freeway exit with a cardboard sign or living in a homeless encampment, most are working for somebody, maybe you? 

What if we collectively were united in not just having drug-free businesses, but drug-free families and drug-free communities? Collectively, our consciences must change, and they will change. Remember when cigarette ads were posted everywhere, and it was cool to smoke? Remember when you did not have recycling bins or recycling? Remember when you didn’t have to clean up after your pet when you took them for a walk? (Those of you who are 30 and under are exempt). 

Perceptions can and will change, but like raising a child, it takes a village to realize it. It takes all of us, together to make this happen, we can all do our part. 

As employers, you can set the tone as to what is expected at work, which hopefully will help your employees set the tone for what is expected at home. As you sit down with your family or gather with loved ones, realize each and every family, large or small, needs and deserves to have a drug-free, drama-free life.