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Ethical Implication of Drug Testing

Drug abuse is a grievous public health problem which is affecting people in every walk and sphere of life .Each year drug abuse causes serious health problem and injuries in about 40 million people only in United States (National Institute of health, n.p2008).

Our workplaces have also been affected by the menace of drug abuse. It is for the benefit of both the worker and the employee that the work place is free from substance abuse. Drug testing in workplaces is a fairly recent phenomenon .It all began around the 1960 when the international athletic association banned certain performance enhancing drugs. It is about the same time that the United States department of defense made drug testing mandatory for the returnees of Vietnam War. (Deborah, 3, 1991)

The growing apprehension about substance abuse has led even the employers of private enterprises to make use of mandatory drug testing before giving the employment or a randomly checking its employee for drug abuse or testing individuals after an accident has taken place. Pre employment testing is normally urine analysis as it is very cheap and a much tried and tested technology. In order to ensure that the sample is not tampered the water is shut down. The presence of an observer is avoided as a privacy issue has been raised for quite sometime now.

Random drug testing of employees is the most effective means of controlling drug abuse but it is the most controversial off al the methods .It is the most challenged method of testing in a court on the grounds that a person is targeted. The third kind of test is conducted after an accident has happened .This kind of test is conducted to protect the employer from paying any kind of liability .Drug testing has gone up by 277%from 1987 .A whole industry has grown to meet the demands for providing quick efficient and foolproof means of detecting traces of metabolites of substances of abuse. Urine analysis is the most conventional method of a drug test. Although it very susceptible to adulteration .Other kinds of test like hair samples, saliva sample, sweat spray testing and even blood test have been developed. Hair testing is considered to be the most accurate as it can check the history of drug abuse for a period of three months. It is one the most recent modern technology. This method has been given an approval by the FDA authorities. One of the leading institutions that cater to the employer�s need of conducting drug test has issued a public notice declaring �Obtaining FDA clearance for all five of our tests is a major milestone for our Company," said Ray Kubacki CEO and President of Psyche medics

The importance of using accurate and reliable testing cannot be overemphasized. Psyche medics is the first company to have any FDA cleared hair tests and we now have them in all the major drugs of abuse categories.(psycamedic corporation, np ,nd)Saliva spray test is being used because it has the minimum chances of being adulterated .Sweat test are used because when collection of urine sample is a problem because of privacy issues This test is normally not used in workplaces because the patches are kept on an individuals body for along while and it doesn�t work with certain drugs .

There is an increased awareness of an individual�s right in the recent times especially with the rise of trade union movement .Urine analysis and other methods of drug testing are coming to be seen as an infringement of an individuals right and an invasion of privacy by civil libertarians .It is a violation of persons right which the constitution grants. These tests apart from revealing the presence of drugs also reveal many physical and medical condition like pregnancy or disease .Urinating in the presence of someone can be very often very humiliating A middle aged women seeking employment said

"I waited for the attendant to turn her back before pulling down my pants, but she told me she had to watch everything I did. I am a 40-year-old mother of three: nothing I have ever done in my life equals or deserves the humiliation, degradation and mortification I felt."

From a letter to the ACLU describing a workplace drug test .This seems very unfair .The very fact that the innocent men and women and those who are not even suspected of drug abuse have to undergo a procedure seems unnecessary and uncalled for. Even the court of law upholds an individual�s right to have his private life. The "right to be left alone" is, in the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis "the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. There are alternatives for these tests which are an intrusion into a person�s privacy. The computer based performance test which NASA has been using for its pilots and astronauts measures eye �hand and response time co-ordination is far more safe and non intrusive.

It is also a contentious issues that how accurate are the test that are being performed on the workers of a company The trade unionist and the advocates for privacy of individual are of the opinion that the more accurate test are expensive and therefore are not commonly used by institution hiring people.

Particular concern has been raised regarding passive exposure of drugs .Many laboratories that are performing these test are very well equipped to handle such a sensitive matter �Mandatory guidelines for federal workplace testing� have become the principles on which even the private sector industries are also functioning. The issue of the accuracy of the test has been addressed to greater extent with the establishment of �National laboratory certification program� Even the most vocal people are of the view that the percentage of error is five percent but those who are the advocates of an individuals right say that this percentage translates into a figure of 1.1million people who are rendered jobless by these procedures. �Sometimes drug tests fail to distinguish between legal and illegal substances. Depronil, a prescription drug used to treat Parkinson's disease, has shown up as an amphetamine on standard drug tests. Over-the-counter anti inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen have shown up positive on the marijuana test. Even the poppy seeds found in baked goods can produce a positive result for heroin (DeCresce, n.p,1989) America�s Civil Liberties union has been vehemently denying the fact that there can be connection between performance and drug consumption .It condemns the testing of individuals without cause as un constitutional

On one side is the issue of individuals right on the other side is the employer responsibility to provide a safe and a drug free environment for its workers .A major concern of the employer is that the productivity of the employee is lessened He has to cater to his clients in the best possible manner and also to provide his share holders with profit margin..A study conducted by National institute of drug abuse NIDA in1990 on United States postal services found that there was 66%more absenteeism 84%more use of health benefits and 90% higher disciplinary action among individuals high on drugs .These individuals have tendency of getting fired or taking up new jobs .Many employers have developed multiple pronged method to curb this menace .one way is to hire people who are not taking any substance of abuse .In order to ensure this a variety of test are available which can be conducted on person wishing to take up a job. Employer also promotes their workers to sign up on rehabilitation program where they are provided counseling .A comprehensive program of emotional and moral and financial support is a must for complete recovery from substance abuse. The connection between productivity and safety and the scour age of drug abuse is largely undocumented. There is no systematic study between drug testing and productivity. National institute of drug abuse tried to review the literature available in this respect and a book entitled "Under the Influence? Drugs and the American Workforce was published .It says "few systematic studies relating drug-testing programs to workers' productivity, and those that had been done were often flawed in significant ways." (Normand, Lempert, and O'Brien, 1994)Drug testing alone cannot be deterrent for not using drugs .Many conglomerates who are minting money by conducting these test are of the view that substance abuse test specially random test are a successful method of curbing this menace. They state that many companies that conduct drug testing show a decrease in the incidence of use of intoxicant .These positives might not just because of the administration of the test. It can be a resultant of another factor like companies policy of not hiring young people as they are more prone to this menace .A survey of the employees of the transportation co-operation is cited as an example of the efficacy of the drug testing methodology.

Figure: Trends in drug use and drug positives

Source: National Household survey on drug abuse, main findings 1996: preliminary results from 1997household survey on drug abuse; smithkline beecham press releases ,October 7 1998

The employer interest lies in increasing the productivity of his workers and providing a safe environment for his employees� .The worker who is fully aware of his rights no more considers himself as a subservient of his boss .The right to privacy and protesting against any procedure that indicates harassment is something that nobody can deny .It is very delicate balance between an individuals rights and safeguarding the progress of the industrial conglomerates .Idealistically it seems to be a struggle between the have and the have not�s This is an ethical conflict perspective They are more concerned with how laws are formulated . The problem needs a practical solution .Any imposition of disciplinary action like firing the individuals might act as a temporary deterrent .the real solution to the problem lies in increasing the level of awareness .The employers should run programs explicitly dealing with health hazards of substance abuse .Random testing is itself considered as means of eradicating this scourge but the cost is quite heavy .The individuals sense of pride in himself is hurt .This can lead to person loosing his self confidence or can even lead person to become immune to getting insulted. This might increase a persons dependency on drugs .Anyways these drugs are mood elevators and mostly taken by individuals who are depressed .Providing emotional support while the person is enlisted in de addiction program is very necessary .Any health related problem also needs to be solved Employee Support Programs should be encouraged .

Drug testing in workplaces was introduced because of the awareness that ingestion of harmful elements is quite prevalent in modern societies .Basic unit of any organization are individuals if drug addiction is increasing in our society then our workplaces are definitely going to be effected by it .Mere firing of employees or testing individuals for drugs is not going to solve the problem. A comprehensive program needs to be developed where the individuals affected by this disease bring about a change from within. The employers should make his workers aware of the disciplinary actions like firing or denial of health benefits that can be taken against them in case they are habitually misuse drugs. They should give them a copy of drug free policy. Emphasis should be place on the fact that an employee should voluntarily admit that he uses drugs .A person is entitled to leave without pay under Family and medical leave act under Americans with Disability act. T his act prohibits employee from any kind of discrimination or harassment by the hiring authorities.( Myron Curry, Copyright -2004)

This doesn�t mean that an employer needs to put up with an individual who responds to any kind effort. God helps those who help themselves therefore. If somebody is persistent in his habits then the bosses have all the authority to take any sort of disciplinary action. The law of the land upholds the right of any individual who is unnecessarily harassed. According to a judge:

"This case presents for judicial consideration a wholesale deprivation of the most fundamental privacy rights of thousands upon thousands of loyal, law-abiding citizens...."( The American Civil Liberties Union, n.p, n.d).

References

Curry, Myron (2004). Article - Workplace Substance Abuse. Retrieved January 12 from: http://www.business-marketing.com/store/article-workplacesubstanceabuse.html

Deborah, Ackerman (1991). Drug testing in a workplace. Retrieved January 12 from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/drugabuse.ht

DeCresce, R (1989). Drug Testing in the Workplace (BNA, 1989); Under the Influence? Drugs and the American Workforce, National Academy of Sciences,

National Institute of health, (2008). Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 12, 2008 from: http://www.nih.gov/

National Household survey (1996) drug abuse, main findings 1996: preliminary results from 1997household survey on drug abuse; smithkline beecham press releases, October 7 1998

The American Civil Liberties Union (n.d). From the 'Lectric Law Library's stacks

Drug Testing in the Workplace. Retrieved January 12 from: http://www.lectlaw.com/files/emp02.htm

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