Drug Testing is NOT the Solution

Imagine a school where the students are only told what is going to be on the test and then given the test. They aren’t taught about the material, there isn’t anybody who intervenes if they are struggling with it, and they don’t know where to go for extra help. Would you be surprised if many of them failed the test? This scenario is analogous to a business with a stand-alone drug testing program, and yet many of these businesses are surprised when they aren’t achieving the desired results. Here are a few of the reasons why just implementing drug testing is not a solution.

Drug testing may keep drugs out, but it won’t keep employees in. Even if drug testing alone could keep substance abusers out of the workplace, it won’t help keep good employees in. If your drug testing program consists entirely of testing employees and then terminating those who do not pass, you might as well install a revolving door. A zero tolerance drug testing program shuffles off good employees who may have benefited from prevention or early intervention. It’s a disservice to your employees to focus your efforts on catching them when they fail.

If an employee fails a drug test, you may have missed the boat, especially if it is a post-accident or reasonable suspicion drug test. Once the accident has happened, or an individual is showing up to work impaired, the safety of the workplace has already been compromised. An effective substance free workplace program will give employees the ability to self-refer and give supervisors the ability to intervene before substance use escalates to a workplace hazard.

A drug test is only as good as what it tests for. Drug tests are extremely accurate, but can only give you information on a select set of drugs. Unfortunately, you will never have a drug test that covers all possible impairing substances (see other reasons an impaired employee may pass a drug test in the tool below). Therefore, you cannot establish a substance free workplace through drug testing alone. In fact, you may end up firing the occasional marijuana user and keeping the individual who shows up high on bath salts every day.


Drug testing IS an integral part of a substance free workplace. Drug testing CAN prevent some individuals from using drugs. Drug testing CAN identify a substance abuse problem. Drug testing is an important part of a substance free workplace, but it can’t do it alone. Prevention also requires employee and supervisor education including information about self-referral and available resources. Early intervention training will help supervisors identify and address substance use early when it is most treatable and before it becomes a workplace hazard. Finally, drug testing may identify a substance abuse issue, but it is important to have policies and resources in place to effectively and compassionately address the substance abuse issue.

If you only have a drug testing program, but aren’t seeing the desired results, contact us to establish a comprehensive Substance Free Workplace.


What do you mean he passed the drug test?!

This tool provides possible explanations for why a clearly impaired employee received a negative drug screen result.

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