NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Workplace Drug Testing

August 21, 2001

Workplace drug testing has become a fact of life over the past two decades, even though, critics contend, its only proven functions are to invade privacy, convey a false sense of security and waste money.

  • The American Management Association reports 81 percent of its 10,000 member companies drug test applicants or current employees.
  • In 1987, only 21 percent did -- when companies rarely tested anyone unless they had grounds for suspicion.
  • In 1994, 34 percent of the companies surveyed tested employees regardless of whether they have done anything wrong.
  • The trend can be traced to the 1988 Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act, which required companies doing business with the government to certify its employees were drug-free -- a virtual mandate for drug testing.

Drug testing was sold as a way of preventing accidents, reducing absenteeism and boosting productivity. But the National Academy of Sciences concluded in a 1994 report that the moderate use of illicit drugs by workers off-hours was no more likely than moderate off-duty alcohol use to compromise workplace safety.

The American Management Association reported 75 to 80 percent of companies surveyed reported no statistical evidence that testing reduced absenteeism, disability claims, accidents, employee theft or violence.

Source: Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune), "Workplace Drug Tests Flunk," Dallas Morning News, August 19, 2001.


Browse more articles on Government Issues