As more job applicants are failing pre-employment drug tests than ever before, employers must raise awareness of or reexamine their drug testing and substance abuse policies. A lower unemployment rate is good for the country but it also means that employers have a smaller pool of candidates. Limited job seekers and drug test failures could challenge the hiring policies of employers. Nevertheless, employers still have the right to screen candidates for drug usage, especially with the legalization of marijuana and an opioid addiction crisis.
Here are some statistics on failed drug tests and how employers can keep a drug-free workplace.
More Job Applicants Are Failing Drug Tests
Statistics of Drug Screen Failures
A 2017 study from Quest Diagnostics revealed the highest rate of drug test failures since 2004. The primary drugs being identified in the drug screens are marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Other statistics included:
- Positive cocaine tests for the 4th year in a row. (Urine testing)
- Marijuana positive tests increased 75% from 2013 to 2016. (Urine and hair testing)
- Tests failed in Colorado and Washington ahead of the national average due to marijuana usage.
- Amphetamine usage (including meth), decreased in the early 2000's and is now on the rise again, increasing more than 64% in 4 years.
- Heroin failures remained steady.
- Prescription drugs, such as opioids, dropped for the 4th year in a row.
VeriFirst Drug Test Failure Statistics
VeriFirst's drug testing reveals similar failure statistics with the national average. While most of our clients' pre-employment drug tests were negative, of the ones that were positive:
- 61% of drug failures were for marijuana
- 27% were for amphetamine and methamphetamine
- 4% were for cocaine
- 9% were for opiates including codeine and morphine
When Can Employers Test for Drugs
Employers in states with legalized marijuana have had questions about testing for the drug. The truth is, as long as pot is illegal at the federal level, employers can still insist on a drug-free workplace. If an employee operates heavy machinery, drives or pilots aircraft, provides security, or works with children, employers must screen for drug use or risk negligent hiring claims.
Employers can screen applicants for drugs in many ways including:
- Random testing
- Post-workplace accident testing
- Reasonable suspicion testing
See also: Employment FAQ for Drug Screening
Employment Policies Drug Testing
Employers must be transparent about testing for drugs. The drug-enforcement policy should be widely known, not only during hiring but post-hiring decision as well. If there are new trends in drug failures, employers must also update their policies to screen for these substances as well. Random drug testing, much like post-employment background checks, may be necessary to ensure a drug-free and safe workplace.
The Society for Human Resource Management also suggests adding employee assistance programs to assist with those dealing with substance abuse challenges. Challenges both professionally and personally could lead to substance abuse. Creating policies to detect abuse and help those with a potential to abuse can be preventative to drug use in the workplace.