The Importance of Drug Testing in the Workplace

While performing a drug test in the workplace is a widely common practice in many US companies, it still continues to be rather controversial. The main advantages of the phenomena are more than visible from the point of view of employers, who need to know their workers better and provide a safe working environment for everyone. In this article, we cover why drug testing in the workplace is important and why every employer should take part in this common practice. We will also see how employees can actually benefit from timely drug testing in the workplace as well.

The issue of drug abuse is especially sensitive in the US, which has only about 5% of world’s population s over 60% world’s supply of illicit drugs, according to Cost of Drug Testing article by OHS Health and Safety Services Inc 1. In addition, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) claims that 70% of Americans, who abuse drugs (estimated 14.8 million people), are employed 2. A study by the National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that drug use which shows up in the workplace has been increasing over years. At least 42,000 Americans are coming to work under the influence of a certain type of illegal substance. Investing in workplace drug testing can be more than justified 3.

From the point of view of employees, however, drug testing is often associated with some privacy issues. Meanwhile, workplace drug testing can, in fact, be beneficial for both employers and employees.

As we explore the advantages of performing drug tests in the workplace, this becomes more visible.

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  • Drug testing at the workplace can help employees with drug problems

Companies usually have their own Drug and Alcohol Policies 4, according to which they conduct the workplace drug testing, and in case of detecting some abuse, they take appropriate actions towards specific employees. In many cases, thoughtful employers give their workers with drug problems a second chance and provide appropriate assistance in order to overcome their problems.

It has been proven that people, who are offered a recovery program from drug abuse by their employers, tend to take the treatment and become more productive in the workplace. The study by Elejalde-Ruiz on How Substance Abuse Hits Employers claims an employee, who recovers from a substance abuse disorder, ends up saving a company more than $3,200 a year 5. This is obviously beneficial for both sides and will eventually result in healthier families and a safer workplace.

  • Workplace drug testing can decrease staffing costs

Drug abuse in the workplace can cost over $140 billion each year for US business owners, according to the article on Why Drug Testing is Important for Employers 6. Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration claims that employees abusing drugs tend to change their jobs in average up to 3 times a year 7. This is surely full of risks and potential expenses for companies. In case of timely performance of drug testing, not only will it be possible to have fewer employee turnovers, but companies will also have the opportunity to actually reduce overall recruitment and other staffing costs.

According to the Drug Tests on Final Job Candidates survey taken by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), 16% of companies performing drug testing program in the workplace claimed that their employee turnover rates visibly decreased 8. National Safety Council’s study on Employee Assistance Programs, Drug Testing, and Workplace Injury, revealed that employees, who abuse drugs, are 2 to 5 times more likely to take unexcused absences, be late for work, be injured or violent at work, file workers’ compensation claims, and quit or be fired within one year of their employment 9.

  • Drug testing can eventually promote a safer working environment

Above all, this is one of the most important advantages of drug testing in the workplace. Employees, who abuse drugs, may cause a list of potential safety issues for both themselves and for their co-workers. This is especially relevant in cases where the jobs are considered to be safety-sensitive such as i.e. driving vehicles, operating heavy machinery, dealing with different chemicals etc. Employers hence need to be sure that risks of a workplace accident are significantly decreased due to accurate and timely drug testing.

Overall advantages of workplace drug testing include even more important aspects such as i.e. better productivity at work, reduced risks of conflicts, better company reputation etc., and not to mention the importance of pre-employment drug testing, which can save measurable resources for companies.

Drug testing in the workplace can be performed in a list of cases and periods including i.e. periodic or random testing, in case of reasonable suspicion, pre-employment, post-accident or post-rehabilitation drug testing etc. OHS’ article on Employee Drug Tests claims that ongoing (periodic) employee drug testing tends to eventually lower the number of employees in the company who test positive 10.

Another group of questions that comes up here includes:

How to get started on performing a drug test?

Which drug test to use on my employees?

Which are the most efficient drug testing kits? And so on…

Workplace drug testing nowadays is a simple and harmless procedure

While many would expect the process of drug testing to mandatorily include blood sampling or other complicated procedures, it is actually much easier to perform. Especially nowadays, drug testing kits are easy and effective to use while collecting urine samples, oral saliva, sweat, breath, and even hair samples. Today, drug testing provides time-efficient results which are quick and reliable all with a onetime use kit. There are a number of incentives to drug testing and facts that back up why workplace drug testing is essential in some states as well 11.

Before proceeding, however, employers must, first of all, make sure they are complying with all state and federal laws relevant to impact workplace drug testing. In addition, employers should prioritize the critical drugs, which are to be screened, in their Drug and Alcohol Policies, before going for appropriate drug testing kits 12. For more complete results, nowadays increasing list of synthetic drugs should be considered as well. For example, using just standard five-panel urine test may not be enough, as it cannot detect some of the newly developed substances, so the list of drug tests should be constantly reviewed and expanded.

Nowadays it is most advisable to use expanded test panels for most common combinations of drugs. The typical 8 or 10-panel drug tests can be effective solutions to test employees against several most common substances using one single drug testing kit. In addition, there are specific drug tests for more specific common substances such as Hallucinogens, Anabolic steroids, MDMA, Hydrocodone, Inhalants etc.

Finally, it is important to partner with a highly reputable drug test providing company for faster and accurate drug testing. This can eventually save time on constant research and reduce risks of inaccurate results.


  1. OHS Health and Safety Services Inc. Cost of Drug Testing. Retrieved from
  2. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Wilcox, S., Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace. Retrieved from
  3. National Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Study on Drug Abuse in US. Retrieved from
  4. US Department of Transportation, What Employees Need to Know About DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing. Retrieved from
  5. Chicago Tribune. Elejalde-Ruiz. Cost of substance abuse hits employers hard, new tool shows. Retrieved from
  6. Air Pre-employment Screening. Why is Drug Testing Important for Employers? Retrieved from
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program – NLCP Drug Testing Results. Retrieved from
  8. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA). SHRM Poll: Half of Employers Conduct Drug Tests on Final Job Candidates. Retrieved from
  9. National Safety Council. Journal of Safety Research. Employee assistance programs, drug testing, and workplace injury. Retrieved from
  10. OHS Health and Safety Services Inc. Employee Drug Tests: The Six Different “Types” and “Timing” of Drug Tests for Your Employees. Retrieved from
  11. National Drug Screening Inc. Why Workplace Drug Testing is Essential. Retrieved from
  12. Certiphi Screening. The Changing Face of Employment Drug Screening. Retrieved from