I have a tendency of having one thought that leads to another that leads to another. This diatribe began by thinking about Quest Diagnostics’ recent statistical report that reflects hair drug testing is much more reliable than drug testing with urine specimens. Keep into consideration that most hair testing laboratories only perform a standard five panel drug test on hair specimens, which do not screen for some of the other more commonly abused drugs such as benzodiazepenes, oxycodone and barbiturates.
Drug testing programs are put into place by employers for health, safety, productivity improvement and other reasons that affect the health and well-being of their employees and customers, as well as liability and bottom-line financials. So, this thought then led to another, Jim Collins’ book Good to Great . The main principle I got out of this book was how critical it is to hire the right people in a company’s efforts to grow and be its best. Ask Bud Hadfield, founder of the International Center for Entrepreneurial Development (ICED). He knows it is critical to hire the right people versus just capable people; in fact, this was the first question he asked me when we first met, signifying its importance.
Another thought – then, does the definition of the right people include candidates and employees who do not have substance use/abuse problems, even if used on a casual basis? What we know about testing urine specimens for drug testing purposes is that [a] attempts at adulteration are most prevalent when compared to other types of samples such as hair, nails or oral fluid; [b] it has a fairly narrow detection window when compared to hair (where the standard is 90 days); therefore, persons “stop” taking drugs to avoid positive test results when they know they are going to be tested for pre-employment or random purposes; and [c] employers many times “plan” the drug testing schedule over a period of time that allows street-wise drug users to implement [b] above.
It’s not just all about the specimen, though. Why are employers still using the standard five (5) panel drug test for non-DOT purposes? An employer once told me they have a low positive rate in there company; therefore, their program was working and there was no need to make any “changes”. Well, maybe there was a low positive rate because the employer was missing commonly used drugs such as benzodiazepenes (eg. Xanax), hydrocodone (eg. Vicodin) or oxycodone (eg. Oxycontin)? Maybe they allowed too much time to pass between notice given to a candidate and the actual drug test? Maybe a better reflection of the person’s use of drugs would have been reflected in a 90-day hair test versus a short detection urine test that can be planned around?
My last thought was that so many companies want to be “great”. They even invest in assessments such as DISC, Meyers-Briggs, Wunderlich, Chally and other types of tools to ensure they are choosing the right person for a specific position. Yet, they don’t take the heavy implications of drug use into full consideration. Why not also invest in testing for all of the most commonly used/abused illegal drugs, or getting a real snapshot of a person’s drug use history by looking at a 3 month period versus one week?
I’ll leave you with a few additional statistics to ponder over, from a survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
People that use drugs are:
2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal/time off
2.5 times more likely to have absences of 8 days +
3 times more likely to be late for work
3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident
5 times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim
So, if you really want to have a “great” company with happy employees and clients, zero or low accident and incident rates, lower employee turnover… the list goes on… then shouldn’t a strong, proactive drug testing program be a part of the process?