Screening potential employees for drug use is a common practice and required in some employment sectors, but it isn’t universally agreed upon. In fact, some opponents of drug testing believe that employers eliminate excellent potential employees based on the results of such screenings, even when there is not clear evidence that the individual would perform poorly in the workplace. On the other hand, however, drug use is illegal, making it appropriate to bar such applicants from employment, particularly in fields like healthcare or security.

With contrasting opinions, what path is right for your company? These 3 factors form the core of the drug screening debates.

Hard Drugs Versus Recreational Drugs

One concern many employers have about drug screening is the difference between the use of hard drugs like cocaine or heroin and the use of drugs like marijuana that are generally deemed less serious, and which are even legal in some areas of the country (though not at the federal level). While many employers consider creating a two-tiered system that allows less severe drugs, there are questions about whether marijuana is a precursor to harder drug use. Employers can’t know what path an employee will take, making this a challenging question.

Cheating The System

Drug tests aren’t foolproof, even when performed by professionals, and one of the main concerns employers have about using theses tests is that habitual drug users and addicts may know how to cheat the tests. Some addicts may drink a lot of water to dilute their urine and reduce the likelihood that drugs will be detected, while others may purchase synthetic urine to substitute for their sample. These are precisely the individuals that employers don’t want on staff, yet they’re the ones who know how to slip under the radar.

On the other hand, there are times when drug screenings yield a false positive, and this can cause employers to overlook potentially excellent employees. Though there is typically secondary testing done when there’s a positive result, even these protective steps can fail.

The Argument For Waiting

For some employers, the risk of losing out on good employees supersedes the potential benefits of testing, and for these employers the best path may be to focus on identifying signs of drug use on the job, rather than before hiring. Spotting trends like chronic lateness and absenteeism, bloodshot eyes, or abnormal activity levels. These signs, when associated with poor work performance, may serve companies better than preemptive testing. From there, it would be acceptable to ask for a drug test and then to follow-up with supportive options.

Drug use and addiction are serious matters and companies shouldn’t take them lightly. It’s up to particular employers, however, to determine what screening protocols work best for them. At the end of the day, making sure your employees are working to the best of their ability is the highest goal.

By Eddy

Eddy is the editorial columnist in Business Fundas, and oversees partner relationships. He posts articles of partners on various topics related to strategy, marketing, supply chain, technology management, social media, e-business, finance, economics and operations management. The articles posted are copyrighted under a Creative Commons unported license 4.0. To contact him, please direct your emails to [email protected].