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How pre-employment drug screening can be cost-effective in the long run

How pre-employment drug screening can be cost-effective in the long run

Ensuring a safe and productive work environment is a top priority for employers. A recent survey found that over 35 percent of businesses prioritize workplace safety following the COVID-19 pandemic. One crucial tool in achieving this goal is through pre-employment drug tests. By including this screening method, in addition to regular background check strategies, employers can gain the necessary information to hire an individual.

According to a 2023 study, 85 percent of employers still use drug testing to screen employees. While this percentage may come as a surprise, statistically, more people have begun using drugs during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. So how can you take advantage of pre-employment screenings while remaining ethical?

In this article, we will delve into the essentials of pre-employment drug tests, the average length of the screening process, its role as an occupational health service, and how it can be another valuable resource alongside other background check methods. 

Understanding Pre-Employment Drug Tests

A pre-employment drug test is a screening process to assess the presence of an illicit substance in a prospective employee's system. The overall goal is to determine whether the candidate is using illegal drugs or misusing prescription medications that could impair their ability to perform job duties safely and efficiently. Pre-employment drug tests are typically conducted after a job offer has been extended but before the candidate officially joins the organization.

Commonly these tests screen for a wide range of illegal substances, including:

  1. Amphetamines: This includes drugs like amphetamine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (Ecstasy).
  2. Cocaine: Testing for benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester - two metabolites found in the drug.
  3. Marijuana (THC): Testing for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the active compound in marijuana.
  4. Opiates: This includes drugs like heroin, morphine, and codeine.

Which Specimens Are Used for Detection and How Long Does It Take?

There are several specimen types that can be collected for pre-employment drug testing; each comes with its advantages, limitations, and average time to receive results:

  1. Urine: The most common method due to its affordability and wide detection window. It can identify recent drug use but may be less effective in detecting substances used farther back in time. Takes, on average, 1-5 business days.
  2. Hair: Offers a longer detection window, often spanning several months. It can provide a comprehensive history of drug use but may not be suitable for detecting recent drug use. Takes, on average, 4-10 business days. 
  3. Saliva: A non-invasive method that can detect recent drug use. They are particularly useful for identifying impairment at the time of testing. Takes, on average, 1-3 business days. 
  4. Blood: Provides a real-time snapshot of drug use and impairment but is less commonly used due to its invasiveness and higher cost. Takes, on average, 1-5 business days. 

The Legality of Employee Drug Testing

The legality of employee drug testing varies by jurisdiction and industry. While some states have stringent regulations protecting employees' privacy, others grant employers more latitude in implementing drug testing programs. Employers must be well-versed in local laws and regulations to ensure drug testing practices align with legal standards and respect employees' rights.

Why Employers Should Require Pre-Employment Drug Screening

Approximately one out of every 11 U.S. workers has had a substance use disorder in the last 12 months. This statistic alone should be compelling enough to see the value in drug screening, but below are four additional reasons why this is an essential step in performing a comprehensive background check:

  1. Workplace Safety: Certain substances can impair cognitive function and physical coordination, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that substance abuse makes up 65 percent of workplace accidents
  2. Performance and Productivity: Substance abuse can negatively impact job performance, leading to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and a decline in overall work quality. Employees with substance abuse problems miss a week and a half more than their peers annually (24.6 days versus 15 days, respectively).
  3. Cost Savings: A drug-free workplace is more likely to experience reduced healthcare costs, fewer accidents, and lower turnover rates, resulting in long-term cost savings. Drug-related incidents cost companies an estimated 276 billion in healthcare costs
  4. Legal Compliance: Some industries, such as transportation and healthcare, are subject to regulatory requirements that mandate drug testing to maintain compliance.

Savings aside, pre-employment drug testing is more than just a screening process; it is a crucial occupational health service. By identifying potential substance abuse issues early in the hiring process, employers can take proactive steps to support employees in need. This can involve providing resources for rehabilitation, counseling, and treatment, ultimately fostering a healthier workforce and contributing to the overall well-being of employees.

The Cost of Pre-Employment Drug Screening

The cost of pre-employment drug tests can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of test, the location of the testing facility, the number of substances being tested for, and the geographical region. If you're an employer or an individual seeking pre-employment drug testing services, it's recommended to contact local medical clinics, laboratories, or third-party drug testing providers to get accurate pricing information based on your specific needs and location.

How Can You Take Advantage of This Screening Process?

Pre-employment drug tests are a valuable tool that employers can use to promote workplace safety, enhance productivity, and maintain compliance with industry regulations. However it's important to note that this should be used in conjunction with other background check methods. Additional important screening methods include criminal searches, driving records, and a history of bankruptcy. A combination of these methods will significantly reduce risk when hiring, leasing, or loaning money to an individual.

Learn more about how MicroBilt's suite of products can collaborate with drug screenings.