The Register-Guard [Eugene, Oregon], Sunday, April 21, 1996

Survey: Drug Tests No Deterrent

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Companies are testing for drugs as much as they ever were, but a new survey released Wednesday by a leading management group found no evidence that it has any effect.

"Costs have increased tenfold since 1990 with very little statistical evidence of results," said Eric Greenberg, who conducted the survey for the American Management Association. "No finding of our survey efforts can confirm with statistical certainty that testing deters drug use."

If testing does deter drug use, researchers would expect to see a smaller percentage of workers testing positive over time. But the percentage of employees testing positive in 1995 remained flat, at 1.9 percent. At the same time, the number of companies testing remains about the same.

"That is not a good case for deterrence," he said.

Eighteen companies reported ending drug testing in 1995 because they found it wasn't cost effective, Greenberg said. On average, the companies responding th the survewy spent $50,000 on drug testing in 1995.

The survey was conducted by mail in January among 961 companies that tested about 196,000 workers and more than 500,000 applicants during 1995. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

This was the first time the annual survey asked if companies kept statistical evidence on the impact of drug testing.

Only 5 percent said they had data showing lowered absentee rates or illness; 6 percent had data showing fewer disability claims.

[End of article]

Letter to the editor in response from Terry Liittschwager:

Wednesday, April 24, 1996

Tests Favor Hard Drugs

Sunday's Register Guard carried an article pointing out that drug testing is ineffective. Knowledgeable people have known that for some time, but now we have hard statistical evidence confirming the fact. Hopefully, the researchers will continue their effort and confirm statistically another well know fact, that drug testing is not only ineffective, it propels soft drug users toward the hard drugs.

The problem is exposure time, the elapsed time from cessation of use until the drug or its metabolite is no longer detectable in the urine. Marijuana is by far the most used illicit drug, usage which dwarfs all other illicit drugs combined. It is not water soluble. Consequently it remains in the body for some time. An oft quoted exposure time is two to six weeks after stopping usage. Heroin, cocaine, and the amphetamines are water soluble; they're gone within two to four days. The solution to a marijuana user's predicament when facing the prospect of random drug tests is obvious. If THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has served to energize him, cocaine or the amphetamines are his replacement candidates. If he's seeking a "mellowing" experience, heroin is the obvious choice.

I walked into one of the newer office supply retailers recently for the first time. Just inside the door were prominent signs stating that they drug-tested their employees. Personally, I resent employers fostering hard drug usage. They're exacerbating an already serious problem, one that is soaking up more and more of my tax dollars. I promptly walked out and later purchased the $2000 computer I had been shopping for at another establishment.

Terry Liittschwager



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