The Problem with Prevention

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Many businesses often encounter addiction in the workplace. Some set up drug testing as a preventative screening tool during the hiring process to avoid such occurrences. However, most addicts and substance abusers are aware of the half-life of their substance of choice. As such, they know just how long to abstain in order to pass a drug test. Additionally, there are methods of over-the-counter detox, easily purchased and readily accessible day or night, which prevent positive drug tests.

Some readers might believe traditional urinalysis drug testing is a measure put in place to prevent even the recreational use of drugs, and in that way highly beneficial and successful. However, it is only so with those companies who administer random drug testing throughout the duration of employment. And, with regard to random, there are very few companies who don’t disclose the onset of a test with some degree of advanced notice. In that way, the sole purpose of the test is basically sabotaged.

The only fail-proof way to test for illicit drugs is through hair follicles. However, those tests are rather expensive and tedious and often present false positives. Though the turnaround time for results is improving with advanced technology, it is simply not always feasible for the purposes of hiring or maintaining drug-free employees. Besides, addicts will search and typically find ways to pass any drug test or obscure results, even willingly shaving their heads to avoid a positive result.*

Truth be told, there is no limit to what an addict will do to avoid the negative consequences which might lead to a realization of a real problem. However, simply not applying is not necessarily on that list. Remember, manipulation is a skill drug addicts and alcoholics master.

Consequently, though companies believe drug testing prevents the inadvertent hiring of an active drug addict, it doesn’t do much of anything other than reinforce an addict’s manipulative tactics and methods of denial and increase the false sense of security for businesses and non-addicted employees. Moreover, drug testing does absolutely nothing—and seeks to do less—to prevent the hiring of active alcoholics.

How does it seek to do less?

Well, drug testing is simply that; a test designed to screen for drug use, including alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs. However, since alcohol is a socially accepted drug, the stigma for even the recreational use of illegal drugs is quite different. In fact, most helping professionals (including myself) differentiate the terms; addicts and alcoholics.

When companies require drug testing, they are implying by way of omission and semantics that no other form of substance use, abuse or addiction is problematic or even considered with regard to hiring. Hence, the reason recreational alcohol consumers rarely fear a drug test, yet recreational marijuana smokers stock op on Goldenseal and other urine cleansing agents in preparation for one.** Additionally, drug testing does not test for alcohol in the same way it might for opioids or amphetamines due to the vast variation in half-life.

Though a high BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) would certainly raise a red flag and prevent hiring, an individual would need to be literally drunk during the hiring process. Though that is not unheard of, as advanced stages of alcoholism and addiction certainly require a certain degree of intoxication for normalization and the prevention of withdrawal symptoms, it is not the only marker for alcoholism. Testing the urine or blood for alcohol would merely prevent the hiring of an alcoholic in the advanced stages of the disease, as most companies would not likely decide not to hire someone with trace amounts of alcohol in their system.

The problem with prevention with regard to businesses is because of the nature of addiction and drugs in general, there is no certainty in the screening process. Additionally, due to society’s vague definition of addiction, the preventative measures don’t account for alcoholism—the nation’s #1 disease and most frequently occurring and problematic addiction known to businesses. As such, though prevention is of course the first step, it is not the only one businesses should take in an effort to remain proactive with regard to addiction in the workplace.

[Note: With regard to hair follicle drug test, unless eyebrows, eyelashes and all other hairs are removed from the body prior to a hair follicle drug test, shaving one’s head will not prevent the presentation of a sample or a positive result. Moreover, mandatory drug testing by definition implies one must provide a sample to be tested. As such, if an individual agrees to mandatory testing, a sample will be provided and tested, regardless.] [Note: There is no evidence of Goldenseal actually detoxing urine and preventing a positive drug test result. However, many still consider it a go-to for detoxing prior to drug testing.

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