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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Drug Testing and Privacy


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To the editor,

Employee drug testing is a civil liberties violation and a highly flawed practice. The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that 9% of current employees and 12% of job applicants test positive for illegal drug use. Given these numbers, and the fact that drug abuse is estimated to cost business $100 billion per year in lost profits, it is no wonder that many businesses react with knee-jerk simplicity by requiring drug testing.

The urine and blood in my body is sacrosanct, personal, and it is my choice and my business to do with it as I will. That choice and that privacy should not become a personal dilemma under pressure from an employer. This is the primary reason why I will never work for an employer who begins our relationship by testing my body for illegal drugs. There are several other reasons why employees, applicants, and employers should be against workplace drug testing.

Drug testing amounts to unequal treatment under the law. There are hundreds of thousands of employees hooked on pain killers and anti-anxiety medications. Are they compelled to an invasion of privacy and then discriminated against? No. What about alcoholics coming to work with a hangover every day? Are they tested and then discriminated against? No. Fairly distributed employee testing should include pharmaceutical addicts, alcoholics, the chronically fatigued, the emotionally unstable, the attention deficit sufferer, the dyslexic, the hyperactive, and the ill-tempered. Imagine the uncounted trillions of dollars of profit lost to these human flaws.

Human error in the lab, or the test's failure to distinguish between legal and illegal substances, can make even a small margin of error add up to a huge number of false positives. In 1992, an estimated 22 million tests were administered. If 5% yielded false positive results (a low estimate), 1.1 million people could have been fired, or denied jobs because of a mistake.

Drug testing can be abused in many ways. In 1988, the Washington, D.C. Police Department admitted it used urine samples collected from drug tests to screen female employees for pregnancy, without their knowledge or consent.

Drug testing is a slippery slope. If we all sit idly by while this widely-accepted invasion of privacy continues unchallenged, then the genetic traits of you and your family will become the next accepted form of invasion used to discriminate.

1 comment:

  1. Victoria, Canada: Workplace urine testing programs are a poor method for identifying employees who are under the influence, and do not significantly reduce job accident rates, according to a study published in the scientific journal Addiction.

    Investigators at the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 20 years of published literature pertaining to the efficacy of workplace drug testing, with a special emphasis on marijuana – the most commonly detected drug.

    Researchers found: "[I]t is not clear that heavy cannabis users represent a meaningful job safety risk unless using before work or on the job; urine tests have poor validity and low sensitivity to detect employees who represent a safety risk; drug testing is related to reductions in the prevalence of cannabis positive tests among employees, but this might not translate into fewer cannabis users; and urinalysis has not been shown to have a meaningful impact on job injury/accident rates."

    Authors concluded, "Urinalysis testing is not recommended as a diagnostic tool to identify employees who represent a job safety risk from cannabis use."

    Urinalysis detects the presence of inert, fat soluble byproducts of marijuana, the most common of which remains present in urine for days, weeks, or even months after past use – long after any psychoactive effects of the drug have worn off.

    ReplyDelete

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