Drug testing, in its current form, is a heinous and degrading invasion of privacy. Drug tests are relied upon frequently in the work place, and many employers consider drug tests a reasonably effective safety precaution. A quick look into the specifics of drug testing reveals some shocking information. First, drug tests are frequently wrong, leading to both false positives and false negatives. Second, virtually the only drug most tests can accurately detect is the least harmful one, marijuana.
Because drug testing is usually done by private companies, there are many variations between tests. There are certainly some methods and drugs which are tested most frequently, and these are the ones this article will focus on.
Although there is more than one type of test, most of them are too expensive to be used by an average employer. Due mainly to economic reasons, the vast majority of employers use urine testing. Although they sometimes test for different drugs, there are five drugs which are tested for very routinely in almost every test. These drugs are marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and PCP. Out of these five drugs, marijuana is the safest, most commonly used, and least addictive. It is alarming then, that it is the only one which can be detected more than seven days after use.
According to www.erowid.org, the average max detection times for these commonly tested drugs are as follows:
Marijuana up to 12 weeks (usually closer to 4 weeks).
Cocaine 5 days.
Opiates (includes heroin and morphine) 4 days.
Methamphetamine 5 days.
PCP 7 days.
To help us better understand these numbers, let us consider this analogy: Let us say that there is a man who is applying for a job where it is essential he is always in an uninfluenced, clear, and sober state of mind. Perhaps he is trying to be a pilot for a public air line, so his sobriety is important to both his safety and the safety of the passengers.
We'll say that every Friday and Saturday night he uses marijuana to relax because he considers it a safer recreational alternative to alcohol. If this man found out he was going to be drug tested for his new job in seven days, and upon hearing this news, he quit using marijuana in an attempt to pass his test, he would very likely fail his test, even though his usage would not have affected his ability to fly planes safely. Now let's say that instead of marijuana, this man used crack cocaine, heroin, crystal methamphetamine, and PCP. If he got this same news and refrained from usage for a week, he would pass a urine analysis and be trusted with the lives of the public.
Although the latter scenario is highly unlikely because someone addicted to such hard drugs would most likely fail the other requirements of being a pilot, this type of discrepancy happens every day.
It is certainly understandable why certain employers would want to be assured that their employees are not under the influence of drugs while they perform their jobs. It is also understandable that employers would not want their employees addicted to hard and dangerous drugs even if they only used them at home. What is not understandable is why anyone would use such an unreliable test that usually detects only the least harmful of all drugs, to decide the fate of their potential employees.
Until drug testing improves, it will continue to be an unjustifiable invasion of privacy. An ideal drug test would tell employers if any hard drugs were used in the last month and also what day and time any drug was used. Only if this information was provided would employers actually be able to know if their employees used a hard drug which will affect the employees' life, and if the employee is under the influence of drugs at any time during the work day. Without this information drug tests are useless. They are an invasion of privacy because they only tell an employer if their potential employee uses marijuana. In reality, marijuana use is not a predictor of employee behavior or reliability. One day drug tests might advance and become an accurate measure of workplace safety. Until then, their use should be entirely discontinued.