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Case Against Drug Testing

NCJ Number
A M O'Keefe
Date Published
4 pages
Mass drug testing of workers is currently being strongly advocated but it is inappropriate, because it is ineffective, invades privacy, and has many other problems.
The Nation's concern over illegal drug use reached almost hysterical proportions during 1986, and routine urinalysis is becoming increasingly common among major companies. The Nation has a serious drug problem, but the drug-testing craze has come just when most types of drug use are beginning to wane. The drug-testing fad could be the product of both election-year posturing and marketing efforts by test manufacturers. However, the results of mass tests are often highly inaccurate. In fact, the tests are more likely to label innocent people as illegal drug users than to identify real users. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs can produce false-positive results on drug tests. In addition, commerical laboratories are not uniformly regulated. Moreover, tests have limited sensitivity to certain drugs, cannot determine the recency of use, and cannot distinguish between chronic and one-time use. Furthermore, testing is expensive. However, the greatest costs of drug testing are not quantifiable. Urinalysis invades workers' privacy, because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that extracting bodily fluids constitutes a search. The Constitution protects citizens only from intrusions by government; it does not restrict nongovernmental employers from invading workers' privacy, although some limitations apply to private employers. Nevertheless, drug testing is not easily challenged. Fortunately, some employers have decided against drug testing because of its human costs in terms of employee morale and confidence.


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