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Are Employers’ Objectives for Workplace Drug Testing Shifting?

Posted on Monday, September 11th, 2023

By Sharon Bottcher, Director of Policy Services at Current Consulting Group (CCG)

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein. 

Drug testing is an essential tool for employers to determine the presence of drugs, including prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and alcohol in an individual’s system. It’s a process that involves testing biological samples such as urine, blood, hair, or saliva to detect the presence of drugs. Drug testing employees has been a common practice for many years and the evolution of workplace drug testing is ever changing. Perhaps the objectives are changing as well.

Why Drug Testing?

When workplace drug testing programs started gaining popularity over of a quarter of a century ago, employers quickly experienced countless benefits gained by the implementation of employee drug testing. The overwhelming evidence and value of a testing program included some of the following:

Reduced Employee Theft: The type of theft can be any loss such as missing money or products, accounting errors, broken items. Theft can be any loss of product from causes other than sales.
Increased Productivity: Individuals abusing drugs often don’t fully focus on their work, leading to low work output, and find making sound decisions difficult, leading to poor performance.
Reduced Accidents: Drug and/or alcohol use can cloud judgment and slow our reflexes. This is not only dangerous to the individual but also to other employees. Accidents can happen if the employee is not clear on what he/she should be doing and why they should be doing it. Furthermore, impaired movements can lead to unnecessary accidents and damage to property, injuries, or even loss of life.
Lower Healthcare Costs: Medical expenses resulting from injuries they have caused or other medical complications such as heart problems, lung disease, and/or mental health concerns triggered from drug use. The increased medical care can threaten to increase some healthcare plan costs.
Higher Turnover Rates: Drug users typically change jobs several times per year and drug-free employees are often left to pick up the slack of lost productivity causing discontent and forcing employees to search elsewhere.

Improved productivity, lower turnover rates, and accidents have all been attributed to employment drug testing, substantiating the value and return on investment (ROI) for employers who incorporate drug testing in the workplace. Based on those achievements alone, employers no longer view drug testing as an expense. Instead, employers see testing as an opportunity for investment.

What’s Happening Now in the World of Workplace Drug Testing?

Undoubtedly, drug use and abuse are a serious concern generally in the workplace, but are employers starting to recognize the additional value of a drug testing program? That testing isn’t all about the bottom line? Are employers starting to see the big picture that a testing program could help with a solution to the real problem in the world today? That savings and profits are great short-term benefits but investing in their employee’s safety, health, and overall well-being may add a long-term solution on the whole?

I am not suggesting that employers are no longer interested in improving their bottom line and reducing its costs. Understandably, survival and growing a business depends on strong profits. Instead, employers are emphasizing purpose along with profits and the objectives of a testing program are expanding to include other benefits such as:

Recovery. Drug tests can be the start of a healing process. Some employers encourage their employees who fail workplace drug tests to seek treatment. The employee can get off the drug and return to work upon completion of a drug treatment program.
Allowing Voluntary Admissions. A process built into the policy that allows employees to voluntarily come forward seeking assistance for a drug and/or alcohol problem before it leads to a violation of the testing program.
Offer Drug Awareness Training. Raising awareness of the dangers of substance abuse and increasing awareness about the risks and hazards of substance abuse in the workplace. Educating employees regularly to help prevent and fight against drug use in the workplace.
Encourage Employee Responsibility. Emphasize the importance while bringing awareness of the principals behind a drug-free workplace to get commitment to the program. Sharing the program requirements and what constitutes a program violation leads to increased responsibility to remain drug-free while at work.
Offering Support. Create a safe and supportive workplace for recovering employees is essential to fostering an environment of respect and understanding. Employers offering professional development opportunities promote long term recovery success. This may include providing reasonable accommodations, access to EAP or support groups, or potentially online rehabilitation.


As businesses confront the new reality that substance use among employees is their problem, adjusting workplace drug testing programming is essential for employer success. By implementing comprehensive drug testing programs, employers can reduce the risks associated with drug use, protect their workforce, and create a culture of accountability and well-being.

Wondering about drug testing in the workplace? Contact the experts at ClearStar by visiting www.clearstar.net.

© 2010-2023 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way, full attribution to the author and copyright holder is required. 

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