“Since Boston police started annual drug testing in 1999, 75 officers have failed the tests, and 26 of them flunked a second test and were fired. Of the 75 officers, 61 tested positive for cocaine, 14 for marijuana, two for ecstasy, and one for heroin, according to the figures, obtained by the Globe through a public records request. Some officers had more than one drug in their system,” (Smalley 2006). Substantial controversy has arisen in the past few years over the proposals to test employees in the workplace for substance abuse. Some encourage workplace testing and say that it is an essential weapon in the war against drug abuse, however, others criticize the testing as unlikely to reduce drug-related impairments in the work force, and see it as an interference with the private lives of employees (Schottenfeld 1989). The following will examine the development and history of drug testing, the types of programs currently in use, the benefits and the potential pitfalls of workplace testing, guidelines needed to make it ethical, and some alternatives that may be implemented to appease both the employee and the employer.
Despite the controversy, workplace drug testing has grown considerably over the last two and a half decades. For example, between the years of 1985 and 1991, the percentage of Fortune 500 companies starting to conduct drug tests increased from eighteen percent to forty percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that companies using testing increased by fifty percent between 1988 and 1990. In 1994, the American Management Association conducted a survey of their corporate members and its results yeilded a 300 percent increse in testing within the workplace since 1987. According to the same survey, eighty-seven percent of their members were conducting some type of drug testing within their own work place. Over half the members indicated that the decision to implement drug testing stemmed from federal government... [continues]
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