Let’s Talk About Drug Testing

Non-DOT test kits, ready to fill

So…I’ve been working in the same industry for over 30 years (started when I was 8). From the time I got my first job offer, during campus recruiting of my senior year of university, I’ve been subjected to pre-employment and so-called randomized drug screening. For the record, not only have I never inhaled, I’ve never tried any form of illegal drug, or abused any legal drugs. My chemicals of choice are caffeine and ibuprofen. But, our parent company does projects regulated through the Department of Transportation (DOT), and most of its clients require that subcontractors have verifiable, approved employee drug testing programs in place. So, today I went, even though I don’t work on DOT projects. ( I have a great number of friends who work for large IT-based companies, or big network conglomerates, and they tell me they never have drug testing.) I’ve mentioned before, I believe, about how my first post-college employer Amoco (now British Petroleum aka BP) also secretly conducted pregnancy tests on female applicants at the time of the pre-employment tests.

I was ‘randomly’ picked for a drug test last week. I use the word loosely, because they tested every employee in our corporate office at the same time. I find this very irritating. It’s the second time I’ve been tested since working here. It’s a condition of employment, and even the officers of the company are tested, but I am in a bad mood the rest of the day. I missed the on-site test earlier due to a meeting at another location, so I was lucky enough to go to the random clinic a few blocks from the office. So, if you’re never been tested:

It’s located in a strip center, near bails bond places, a michoacona, and low-end furniture stores. The clinic here gets most of its business from drug testing and workman’s comp cases. After signing in, I had to fill out paperwork for the new clinic, as if I was a new patient (something I would have avoided if I had contributed at the office). At least this place didn’t have roaches on the wall, like the Concentra location a previous employer, Duke Energy Field Services, used.

After my name was called, I went into the back where a technician had me fill out another form, show my photo ID, and empty my pockets into a lockbox, then wash my hands in his presence. I was given a plastic cup with a heat sensitive strip on the side. This indicates the temperature of the sample, which is so you don’t bring a secret sample with you. You are directed into a small room with a toilet. There is nothing else in the room, and the tank lid is taped with layers and layers of duct tape to prevent opening. The bowl water is dyed deep blue. After ‘collecting your sample’ you are instructed to bring it back to the technician without flushing the toilet. The sample is poured into tubes, you sign the seals, and they are placed into sealed bags in your presence. You’re then allowed to have your keys and wallet back.  A friend of mine who was in the Navy Reserve said that she had a whiz-quiz every month, and that a crusty old Army nurse was required to witness her peeing into her cup.

Part of the business chain that profits from drug testings

One of the big pushes for employee screening was a serious train accident that occurred in the 1980s, where an investigation revealed that the engineer had been smoking pot. Originally, testing was aimed at DOT-related jobs, and then expanded to anything OSHA might cover. I recall sitting in meetings where we were told that American businesses lost $75 billion per year in lost productivity due to drug usage, but we never given any source. Right before the industry-wide testing started, it was implied that we might lose 15-20% of our work force. The Human Resources VP of a Very Large International Oil Company (whose name included “66”) said that, in reality, they had barely a handful of current employees that didn’t pass, out of tens of thousands at the one company. At a national convention for my industry, a speaker for the government confirmed that experience. I suspect that a lot of heroin addicts and meth heads aren’t holding down regular jobs anyway.

Yep, that’s mine.

Sometimes the tests are random without being random. My ex works for a state government organization, supervising a large group of technicians and mechanics. He said at least a few of his employees are called up for “random” testing every Monday after a long holiday weekend, but that the more white collar employees were not.

I don’t want impaired employees working for me. I hate the destruction that meth and crack and heroin rain down on addicts and their families, and the misery they cause. I don’t know enough about pot. I have friends who claim they can do anything just as well or better when they smoke (which I don’t believe), and I read reports of studies which seem to confirm that long-term or heavy pot use causes problems. I’d fire a stoned employee as soon as I would a drunk employee. People on both sides of the marijuana legalization debate argument passionately about their case, and if I wanted to get in fruitless arguments, I’d go over to one of the politic forums. But if you do a search, you’ll see that there is a large industry built up on systematic drug testing of employees. These companies, such as the Pipeline Testing Consortium. They have a stake in promoting the idea that a large number of your employees, co-workers, your surgeon, your taxi driver, and the clerk at the liquor store are all working stoned out of their minds.

After I got back from my test, I did a bit of research, and found this table on the website of one of many companies whose sole business purpose is finding out what YOUR employee did on their own time last weekend.


Current Illicit Drug Use (%)

Past Year Illicit Drug Use (%)

Current Heavy Alcohol Use (%)

Apparel and Shoe Stores




Auto Supply Stores and Gas Stations




Department Stores




Eating and Drinking Places




Furniture and Appliance Stores




Grocery Stores




Other Retail Stores




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Categories: Work and Jobs

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2 replies

  1. Great article! Very informative, but the facility sounds so icky.

  2. This is all so similar to what we are seeing in the anti-terrorism industry: Take your shoes and belt off, two forms of ID, “No backpacks allowed beyond this point”, etc. Mandatory drug testing, voter ID laws, counterfeit money detection pens and lie detector tests all involve millions if not billions of dollars to address a perceived serious problem that may not be that serious or that may warrant more effective means of dealing with the problem. James Randi knows how to fool those detection pens, and there are plenty of CIA/NSA employees who passed lie detector tests and got caught through other means… or fled to Russia. A huge waste of scarce resources that could be better used in other ways.

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