Guess What? Drug Tests Are A Massive Scam

September 3rd 2015

A drug test: it is an assessment that can make or break job applicants. Failing can get you in trouble at school; it can get you taken off welfare programs in some states; and it can get even the most qualified employees fired. Drug testing may seem like an effective way to maintain a healthy and productive workforce and motivate people to abstain from illicit substances, but what drug tests really do is discriminate against users and waste money.

The American Civil Liberties Union put it bluntly: "Blanket drug testing with no individualized reason for suspicion is unconstitutional." Indeed, the motives behind implementing a workplace drug testing system are often questionable, with many companies failing to differentiate between recreational, off-site use, and full-blown addiction. Of course no employer wants to hire a person who is constantly high and impaired—but that is not what drug tests determine.

There are many misconceptions about drug testing. In different contexts, the system can put up barriers to workplace success or force families off government assistance program. Both can be devastating consequences of an imperfect assessment. But employers might not even realize the harm that drug testing can do; they argue that it is the only way to ensure that their office or school is drug-free. That is simply not the case.

Here are four reasons that drug tests are a massive scam.

1. You can easily beat them.

First of all, if you know (or strongly suspect) that you're going to be drug tested for a job, you can refrain from using. Of course, you can usually go back to using after you pass—unless your employer administers weekly pee tests or something—so the first and most obvious drug test hack is as simple as abstaining from illicit substances in the months, weeks, or days leading up to your appointment.

If it's a pee test, you can increase your likelihood of passing by flushing your system. Even just drinking a lot of water helps, diluting your urine and making drugs more difficult to detect. A quick Google search will turn up dozens of anecdotal claims about how to beat drug tests, and there are plenty of "detox kits" to choose from. Be warned, however: these kits don't always work. They aren't generally backed by scientific studies but rather they often just mask the drugs in your system.

Drug test

2. They discriminate against drugs that are actually less harmful.

Drug tests are not the most sophisticated tools. They've become increasingly accurate—especially as far as hair-based assessments are concerned—but they can't detect drugs that have passed their point of detectability in your urine or blood. For most drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and meth, those drugs are naturally flushed out of your system in less than a week. For amphetamines, the second most widely-used illicit substance in the U.S., you can use the drug on Friday and pass a test on Monday. Amphetamines only have a one to three day lifespan in your urine.

You're much more likely to be busted for cannabis use. The statistics are staggering: at least 90 percent of positive drug tests are attributed to marijuana use. In part, that is because pot is the most commonly used illicit substance in the country; however, the other part of that has to do with the fact that THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, can stay in your system for significantly longer than other, more harmful drugs. On average, it takes seven to 30 days for pot to clear your system, varying depending upon the frequency of use and the body fat of the person being tested.

Note: you can smoke a joint on Friday, remain completely sober over the next few weeks, and still fail a drug test for marijuana. It doesn't mean you're actively high at the time of the drug test, of course, and it doesn't mean that the person who failed has a problem. It's totally accepted that people drink alcohol off the clock; they can indulge heavily over the weekends and not have it affect their productivity at work. But marijuana users face extensive discrimination when it comes to workplace drug testing policies.

3. They cost a lot of money for employers, and they profit the private corporations that administer them.

Drug-free workplace programs have been designed and sustained by special interest groups, such as the Drugs of Abuse Testing Coalition, which spends tens of thousands of dollars each year lobbying for "Medicare reimbursement codes and payment rates for qualitative drug screen testing." The drug testing industry, which is supported by private corporations as well as federal drug enforcement agencies, has pushed for laws that restrict the sale and promotion of any products that aim to "defraud a drug test."

"Dr. George Lundberg, former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and of Medscape, has decried the cost of such testing, given the absence of evidence to support it," Forbes reported. "At a cost of ~$45 per drug screen, it would cost ~$5,431,995,000 to screen all 120,711,000 full-time workers" in this country.

"Drug testing appears to be a lucrative industry, like the TSA, sold to the public by lobbyists and politicians assuring us that it will somehow make us safer, without solid evidence to back up this claim," Forbes added.

4. They don't deter drug use.

Last year, a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that drug tests really don't do much in the way of deterring drug use—not for high school students, at least. After looking at data collected from over 300 participants in the National Annenberg Survey of Youth, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center determined that the prospect of drug testing did not appear to influence students' decisions to partake in pot, alcohol, or tobacco products. Those who thought that their schools had a "positive environment" were less likely to use drugs, but drug tests didn't seem to pose an immediate or actionable concern for the vast majority of participants.

"A school that has a positive climate might also practice drug testing," NPR reported. "But this study suggests that administrators concerned about substance abuse might want to try programs that encourage a more respectful school climate before turning to drug testing."

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Have you ever been drug tested by an employer?

No 39%Yes 61%