Drug use is on the rise in the United States. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration identified that the number of current illicit drug users1 over the last few years: 24.57 million in 2013; 26.98 million in 2014; 27.08 million in 2015.
Numbers are still being collected and prepared for the 2016 report, but we can safely assume that the number may continue to rise. To protect themselves from the costs of employing the growing number of regular drug users, many employers use workplace drug testing. In fact, many workplaces in the United States require pre-employment drug testing of applicants, but much fewer require random drug testing of employees. That means that a majority of workplaces only require applicants to pass one drug test over the entire course of their employment. Additionally, that single drug test is announced in advance allowing drug using applicants ample time to stop using to pass the test and start using as soon as they are onboard. While pre-employment drug testing is an effective tool in keeping workplaces drug-free, it is only one tool. Employers who fail to take advantage of unannounced, random drug tests miss the opportunity to deter drug use by employees and maintain a safer, more productive workplace.
Pre-employment and Random Drug Testing – Detection Rates
Drug test results from nation-wide laboratories reveal that random drug testing has a higher detection rate than pre-employment. In fact, while pre-employment has a positivity rate of about 3.5 percent, random drug testing has a positivity rate of 5.2 percent. This equates to about three or four applicants out of 100 screened out for drug use as part of the pre-screening process, but five employees out of 100 who are screened out for drug use after being hired. Pre-employment drug testing is certainly an effective assessment tool, but random, unannounced drug testing provides employers with a valuable tool to continue to deter drug use and to detect employees who were able to pass the pre-employment test.
Random drug testing coupled with pre-employment testing creates an even stronger deterrent and an even safer workplace than one or the other on its own.
Pre-employment and Random Drug Testing – Deterrence Rate
Current employed drug users were asked if they would work for a company that conducted drug testing. 30 percent said they would not work for a company that conducts pre-employment drug testing. However, in that same survey, 40 percent said they would not work for a company that conducts random drug testing. Pre-employment drug testing is indeed an effective deterrent, but random testing proves to be an even greater one. The sum of the parts often proves to be greater than the whole. That is the case with drug testing. Random drug testing coupled with pre-employment testing creates an even stronger deterrent and an even safer workplace than one or the other on its own.
Random drug testing is one of the smartest investments a company can make, especially when drug abuse is increasing so rapidly and current drug users are finding their way into the workplace. The return on investment for a random drug testing program is often easy to show with a single positive drug test. And that investment will drop straight to a much better-looking bottom line.