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3 min read

Substance Abuse Testing is Still a Vital Tool in Mitigating Employment Risk and Promoting Safer Workplaces

Drug testing has a long history as a valuable tool to ensure safer workplaces and mitigate organizational risks, including challenges like employee theft, on-the-job injuries, workplace violence, and absenteeism. According to a 2021 national drug use survey by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “46.3 million people aged 12 or older met the applicable criteria for having a substance use disorder in the past year.” Further, “almost 9% of working adults have a substance use disorder (SUD) in the U.S.” according to the National Safety Council. In an effort to bring greater awareness to the ongoing issue of substance abuse in the workplace, the National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance has designated October 16-23, 2023, as National Drug-Free Work Week. 


Commonly Misused Drugs in the Workplace 

Awareness of the prevalence of substance abuse and understanding top abused substances in society today is critical in ensuring your workplace substance abuse policy and testing programs help support your organization’s goals in promoting safer work environments. Alcohol is the number one substance of abuse in America, as “nearly 14 million Americans abuse alcohol or are alcoholics,” according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Following closely behind alcohol abuse is the use of marijuana (THC), heroin, and cocaine, and abuse of benzodiazepines and prescription opioids oxycontin, oxycodone, and fentanyl. While the top substances of abuse often evolve over time, workplace challenges related to drug and alcohol abuse remain a significant cause of financial loss for businesses, costing American companies over $81 billion each year 


Marijuana Legislation’s Effect on Employers’ Drug Testing Views 

Drug testing programs have declined over the past decade primarily due to concerns regarding worker privacy and increased legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use throughout the U.S. As of 2023, marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law; however, only four states remain with laws prohibiting marijuana use completely. The evolution of marijuana legislation in the U.S. has resulted in some employers reducing substance abuse testing or halting screening entirely, often due to compliance concerns surrounding applicable marijuana use legislation.  While the prevalence of new and ever-evolving legislation can impact substance abuse testing programs, employers have multiple options to ensure compliance while still reducing employment risks related to substance abuse. They can choose to remove marijuana testing completely from their screening program and utilize a test with a panel configuration that screens for other high-abuse drugs. They can also transition to a testing method that affords a short window of detection for THC while still affording viable detection windows for other common drugs of abuse like oral fluid drug testing. Oral fluid specimens can be sent to a laboratory for testing or testing can be performed within minutes by utilizing an instant test kit.   

Instant oral fluid tests provide unique advantages over other testing methods; they can significantly reduce overall program costs, provide rapid results, and are often considered less personally invasive than urine specimen collection. They also offer the added benefit of the minimal time required for testing as the employee does not need to travel to a laboratory collection facility for specimen collection. Further, instant oral swab collections are a fully observed process, nearly eliminating testing adulteration concerns. Additionally, instant oral fluid testing can be beneficial for post-accident or reasonable suspicion uses, especially when the need to test occurs outside of standard collection facility or clinic business hours. Finally, an FDA-approved, lab reader app supported instant oral testing kits affording the same specimen confirmation testing on non-negative initial tests like the OralTox Instant Oral Fluid Test kit aids employers in ensuring compliance in the use of instant oral fluid testing in states with special regulations. Bottom line, abandoning workplace substance abuse testing programs entirely due to privacy or compliance concerns related to marijuana alone places employers and their businesses at unnecessary risk as there are options available to address these challenges and still facilitate a drug-free workplace.   


How Employers Can Promote a Drug-Free Workplace 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the 13.6 million workers with a SUD represent nearly 9% of all employed adults.” Employers can make a substantial impact in reducing the prevalence of substance abuse in the workplace by taking a few simple actions. First, organizations should implement a quality, drug-free workplace policy and ensure it is highly visible to staff.  The policy should clearly define the consequences of substance abuse in the workplace and provide resources like access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to aid employees who recognize they need help. Additionally, affording training to supervisory staff in how to handle substance abuse issues and educating employees to recognize the signs of impairment and what to do when they encounter a co-worker who is potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol boost efforts to maintain a drug-free workplace organization-wide.   

Creating a drug-free workplace requires continuous effort and commitment from employers. By implementing these strategies, employers can help ensure a safe and healthy environment for their employees while reducing the financial risk of worker substance abuse.  

Would you like to learn more about how AccuSourceHR can benefit your drug screening program and help minimize workplace substance abuse? Email us at to schedule a complimentary personalized program evaluation.