Hiring managers considering whether to drug test job candidates must contend with a plethora of myths about the practice. Many fallacies about drug testing are posted on the Internet and misinform both job applicants and business leaders. This can make it challenging to implement a comprehensive drug screening program. Here are some common misconceptions about drug testing.
• Myth: Applicants can cheat a drug test by altering or diluting the sample.
Fact: The Internet is full of suggestions on how to try to beat a drug test, such as diluting samples by drinking huge amounts of water or fruit juice or adding water to specimens. Fortunately, lab testing reports dilution and adulterated samples to employers, who may then require a re-test to obtain an authentic sample.
• Myth: Even a single use of marijuana is easy to detect in drug screenings.
Fact: There is a lot of incorrect information regarding how long marijuana stays in an individual’s body. Some websites falsely claim that marijuana can remain in the body at a detectable level for years. However, most experts agree that the detection window for marijuana is thirty days or less, depending on usage habits and the type of drug screening administered. For example, for single or occasional marijuana use, the detection window is three to four days following usage. For chronic marijuana users, the range is 21 to 30 days.
• Myth: Marijuana is legal now, so I can’t be penalized for it at work.
Fact: While recent legislation has legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes in select states, this does not provide a defense for marijuana usage with your current or potential employer. Due to the limitations of the law and the individual rights of business owners, drug policy within the company is still determined by the company.
• Myth: Drug use doesn’t affect workplace safety.
Fact: Drug use is an issue affecting employees at every level of an organization from front-line workers to managers with high level responsibilities. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 10.1% of the U.S. population used illicit drugs in 2015. Drug use by employees has been shown to result in workplace accidents and injuries, absenteeism, and low productivity.
• Myth: Drug tests are unreliable because they yield false positives.
Fact: It is possible for drug screenings to produce a false positive test result. For example, an applicant who takes a prescribed medication to treat an ailment may test positive on his or her drug screening. However, there are several industry best practices to help reduce the likelihood of such incidences. These include having a medical review officer verify the positive test result and having drug test administrators use a mass spectrometry confirmation test to validate positive test results.
• Myth: Only urine tests are used in pre-employment drug screening.
Fact: While urine tests are the most common drug screening, they are not the only type of test or the only test needed for an effective drug screening regimen. For example, hair tests can be used to detect habitual drug use or usage in the past. Blood and saliva tests can be used to determine if applicants are currently under the influence of drugs.
• Myth: Only safety-sensitive positions require drug testing.
Fact: Transportation industry employees with jobs designated as safety-sensitive are required to be tested before hire and at random intervals during their employment. It also makes sense to administer drug tests to employees operating heavy machinery or working in commercial kitchens in the restaurant industry. Still, the risk of injury, accidents, and loss of productivity yield stronger results even in mild working conditions found in office jobs where there is illicit drug use and/or drug abuse.
An employee who uses illegal drugs on the job represents a potential risk to co-workers, customers, and the public, and businesses can be held accountable for the conduct of their employees. Therefore, instituting a drug screening program is a sensible way to reduce these risks. Engaging the services of a reputable background screening provider can help ensure businesses are implementing a cost-effective drug testing program for applicants and employees.
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