“Urine the Money,” another outgrowth of the Reagan era is the drug testing industry. Practically unheard of fifteen years ago, the testing of one’s urine, hair and sweat is increasingly being utilized to identify and punish drug users among the population. Drug tests do not detect impairment or performance, just the minute traces of drug-related metabolites in one’s body.
The American Civil Liberties Union decries this practice as a violation of the right to privacy, presumption of innocence, and freedom from unreasonable searches and self-incrimination. Furthermore, it is an invasive insult to human dignity. Nonetheless, mandatory drug testing without probable cause is a practice that is being used at an alarming rate, largely due to government mandates.
According to a national survey, about 44 percent of the workforce report that their employers subject them to some form of drug testing. Virtually all Fortune 200 companies impose it. A survey by the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that out of the ten largest private employers, nine drug test their workers. Drug tests are now commonly required for pre-employment screening purposes, and an increasing number of business, police departments, government agencies, prisons and armed forces, and sports organizations have begun to jump on the bandwagon.
The developers of drug tests quietly lobby for more laws that force you to submit to their scrutiny before you will be able to get a driver’s license or participate in school athletic programs. Widespread testing ensures huge profits for these companies. One of the largest such firms, Smithkline Beecham, sold over 24 million drug tests in just ten years. The company that holds the patent on hair testing, Psychemedics Corp., reported that its sales had tripled from 1992 to 1996 to $12.2 million.
While most people support the employer’s right to forbid drug use on the job, the arbitrary nature of drug testing is obvious on its premise. Consider random drug testing; if an employee is performing their job so well that the only way their employer can tell if they have ever used an illicit drug is to test bodily fluids or hair, they are doing their job. Their private lifestyle is not a work-related issue, so the employer has no inherent interests or right to invade the worker’s privacy. If an employees’ drug use keeps them from performing their duties, they can be fired without resorting to a urine test. So the test itself serves no purpose except to intimidate and dominate the workforce.
Technology available to hair testing companies can detect traces of illicit drugs up to ninety days prior to the test. As marijuana is the most common illicit drug detected through these tests, this could effectively prevent a person who has smoked a marijuana joint in the last three months from making a living! Further, drug tests are fallible. People can be banned from employment, lose custody of their children, or be sent back to prison for a parole violation – – based on a false positive. This effectively penalizes people, not for their impairment or performance, but at the whim of a flawed test that claims to show the presence of something in their bodies that the government finds offensive.
(Taken from Shattered Lives – Portraits from America’s Drug War – by Mikki Norris, Chris Conrad and Virginia Resner)