Business embraces drug tests

To get an idea of how pervasive drug testing has become, consider Florida Drug Screening Inc.’s long list of clients.
The Palm Bay-based company provides drug-testing for 380 businesses and organizations in Brevard County, and for about 8,000 nationwide.
“We have seen a strong increase of businesses wanting to implement a (drug-testing) program,” said Florida Drug Screening President Joe Reilly, who founded the company in 1993.
Drug-testing programs generally started in government, and began spreading to the private sector in the late-1980s. They started to take hold on a widespread basis in the early-1990s, Reilly said.
Today, drug-testing is being done by businesses of all sizes — from large corporations to mom-and-pop operations, he said.
Pip Printing in Palm Bay has only several employees, but the shop has a drug-testing program through Florida Drug Screening.
“We think it’s a good thing to do. It’s the responsible thing to do,” said Beverley Wiggins, who owns the shop with her husband, Leslie. “We’re against drugs.”
The couple require job applicants to take a drug test, and they also have random drug tests — for both employees and themselves.
“If we’re asking the staff to do something, we should also do it ourselves to set an example,” Wiggins said.
Since the couple bought the printing shop last year, no one has tested positive for drug use, she added.
Overall, Florida Drug Screening’s Reilly said, his clients’ drug tests for applicants and employees come back positive about 4.8 percent of the time.
Most of the testing done by the firm is for job applicants, and the majority of employers do not test employees after they are hired, he said.
The growth of Florida Drug Screening’s business isn’t surprising, considering some of the latest data on drugs in the workplace.
About one in 12 American workers — 8.2 percent — has engaged in illicit drug use in the past month, according to a newly released survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The survey of 128,000 adult workers from 2002 to 2004 also found:
• The highest rates of employee drug use, by industry, were among restaurant workers, with 17.4 percent reported using in the past month; and construction workers, with 15.1 percent reporting using in the past month.
• Four percent of teachers and social-service workers reported using drugs in the past month.
• The 8.2 percent overall rate of employee drug use was higher than previous surveys, which found overall rates of 7.6 percent in 1994 and 7.7 percent in 1997.
In addition, the survey found that 48.8 percent of full-time workers reported that their employer conducts drug testing, most often prior to being hired; and 30 percent reported that their employer conducts random drug testing of current employees.
Many observers “believe these statistics actually underestimate the magnitude of illicit drug use and alcohol abuse problems in the workplace, because substance abusers are likely to be harder to reach,” said Mark de Bernardo, executive director of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace.
Also, employees are “less likely to self-report their substance abuse, particularly of illegal drugs,” de Bernardo said.
Some organizations feel not enough is being done to address the issue.
A recent survey by the Hazelden Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps people overcome addictions, found that substance abuse and addiction are recognized by human-resource professionals as among the most serious problems in the workplace.
The survey of 1,356 human-resource professionals nationwide also found that employers’ policies and practices are not fully addressing the problem.
Although many companies offer employee-assistance programs, many do not openly and proactively deal with employee substance-abuse issues, according to the Hazelden Foundation.
“Addiction is this country’s No. 1 public-health problem,” said Jill Wiedemann-West, senior vice president of clinical and recovery services at the Hazelden Foundation.
“We know that treating drug and alcohol addiction results in more people finding their path to recovery,” Wiedemann-West said. “It results in more resilient families, more productive workplaces, and healthier and safer communities.”
Among the barriers to helping employees with substance abuse problems, the Hazelden survey found:
• Fifty-four percent of human-resource professionals believe that getting employees to acknowledge or talk about the issue is their toughest challenge.
• Forty-nine percent of human-resource professionals cited at least one of four personal hurdles to helping employees: lack of experience in identifying substance abuse and addiction; lack of information about treatment options; personal discomfort in approaching employees about the issue; and not having enough time to deal with the issue.
Florida Drug Screening’s standard “five-panel” test looks for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine (“speed”), opiates (such as heroin, morphine, opium) and PCP (“angel dust”).
The firm also has an expanded “10-panel” test that also looks for five other categories of drugs: barbiturates (“downers”), methamphetamine (“meth,” “crystal meth”), benzodiazapines (tranquilizers), methadone (commonly used for treating narcotics addiction) and propoxyphene (“painkillers”).
Reilly said some local companies that have drug testing also have confidential employee-assistance programs to provide workers with counseling and other services to help them.
But, often, the programs are underused.
“Companies have these programs, but they don’t promote them enough,” he said.

Source:, Aug 19th 2007

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