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Health Tech feels that it is important to educate people about drug testing and to make them more aware of the facts involving (surrounding) the abuses of drug testing. We are pleased to provide you with the following information that has been compiled from various sources which are noted. The information contained in these sections is updated regularly. Although this information will be updated regularly, Health Tech is not responsible for the accuracy of this report. Additional information can be found in our Drug Testing Books section.

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- Journals/Articles

Laboratories admit that urine tests are not always accurate. The manufacturers of all testing equipment acknowledge that all positive results should be confirmed with a more sophisticated test. The only acceptable confirmation test is the costly gas chromatography/mass spectrometer. Without confirmation by an alternative testing method, urine tests are not sufficiently reliable to hold up in court.

"Only 85 of the estimated 1,200 laboratories in the United States currently testing urine for drugs meet federal standards for accuracy, qualified lab personnel, and proper documentation and record-keeping procedures. Because private companies are not required to use certified labs, workers are being asked to put their job security in the hands of a test that has insufficient quality controls."
R. Brookler, "Industry Standards in Workplace Drug Testing," Personnel Journal, (April 1992).

Even in labs that do meet the minimum standards, there is plenty of room for error. Your urine sample will change hands many times before its actual analysis, which increases the risk of mix-ups and errors. Also, the chemical reagents used in testing have a limited shelf life, which can cause "false positives". (A false positive is a sample showing a positive when there are no metabolites in the person's system – click here for a list of false positives.)

Most states do not regulate the operations of urine test labs; in fact, some labs have fewer quality control regulations than restaurants. Your typical private employer may use any lab she/he chooses, which would most likely be the least expensive. Findings from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta stated: "...the labs somehow detected cocaine in as many as 6 percent, and amphetamines in up to 37 percent of urine specimens that were 'blank" (those containing no drugs at all)."

False positives run high and no laboratory process is completely free from error. False positives also occur at high rates reported from 4 percent to over 50 percent. The high prevalence of false positives insures that people who are accused by the test are not necessarily drug users. False positives can occur for a number of reasons including: improper laboratory procedures, samples getting mixed up, paperwork being incorrect or lost, passive inhalation (second-hand smoke), and cross-reaction with prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.

  • A USA TODAY report indicated that 15 percent of all urine tests yield a false positive due to cross-reacting substances
  • In a UCLA study of 161 legally prescribed and over-the-counter drugs, 65 gave false positive results
  • A National Institute of Drug Abuse study of 50 labs revealed that all 50 labs responded with some false positive results.

False positives also can be caused by glitches in the testing technology. In a notorious 1984 incident, 60,000 Army personnel were informed that their tests had been wrong. To add insult to injury, federal drug testing costs taxpayers $500 million a year for urinalysis testing of government workers.

"Today, the most conservative estimates of the number of false positives per year run into the thousands. In fact, the highest estimate of accuracy reported to date shows one false positive in every 700 samples." Considering the number of times workers are tested, as many as 1 in every 15 workers can expect to have a false positive at some point in his or her career. B. Luberoff, cited in W. Holstein, "The Other Side of Drug Testing," Chemtech, (September 1992).

An article by Phil Smith in the March, 1990 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN suggested that workers who tested positive for marijuana only:

  1. Cost less in health insurance benefits
  2. Had a higher-than-average rate of promotion
  3. Exhibited less absenteeism
  4. Were fired for cause less often than workers who did not test positive.

Since marijuana is the most common illicit drug used by adults, and the one detected in up to 90 percent of all positive drug tests (half of which are false), this fact has radical implications for current public and employer policies.

At a seminar in Houston on September, 1994, communications guru Tom Peters, author of the best-selling book IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE, was asked his reaction to widespread use of drug testing as a condition of employment, and random drug testing as a condition of continued employment. His thought-provoking answer included the following:
"I think it's absolute rubbish! Am I for drug-or-booze-impaired employees disrupting others and creating safety hazards in the workplace? Of course not! But that puts the cart before the horse. Put aside productivity and safety issues. Let's talk about what makes any business tick--super folks who trust one another and are committed to working hard together to create great outcomes for each other and their customers. Trust. Respect. Commitment. Mutual support. Each is wholly at odds with intrusive, impersonal assessment measures. That is, drug tests.."

He goes on to describe himself as "a Bill of Rights freak and a privacy freak. It's how I feel as a person and, by extension, as a business owner/leader. I run a company that has about 25 employees. They're wonderful people; that's why I hired them. I would no more consider asking them to submit to a drug test as a condition of employment than I would try to fly to the moon without a rocket. I am disgusted by the very idea at my place--or yours.”

"No, I'm not going to take a drug test. And nobody who works for me is going to be forced to do so either. And if there were a law that required me to ask them to do it, I'd close my place down before I'd comply. If you want an environment that will breed trust, care and compassion for customers--then stay the hell out of people's personal space!"

In the JOURNAL OF GENERAL INTERNAL MEDICINE, David C. Parish of the Mercer University School of Medicine in Georgia reported on a study of 180 hospital employees, 22 of whom had tested positive after being hired. Parish examined supervisor evaluations and other indexes and found "no difference between drug-positive and drug-negative employees" at the end of one year. He noted, however, that 11 of the negatives had been fired during that period but none of the positives had been terminated.

In the May 1987 edition of Laboratory Medicine, Dr. T.P. Moyer of the Mayo Clinic concluded in testing for marijuana on the EMIT test, 15% of the positives would be false.

The November 1992 Issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, printed this surprising result. In a survey of 272 Michigan doctors 38 percent said they didn't believe drug tests were accurate.

In the April 26, 1985 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Hugh Hansen reported shocking results from blind tests conducted for the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. By sending in blind samples spiked with drugs the following results were obtained from samples sent to thirteen labs. The range of false positive error rates were as follows:

  • Barbiturates 0% - 6%
  • Amphetamines 0% - 37%
  • Cocaine 0% - 7%
  • Morphine 0% - 10%

An official for the Center for Disease Control commented, “If these labs dumped the samples down the sink and tossed a coin, they would have come up with the same reliability in their test results.”

Urine testing is less accurate than the lie detector tests that have been banned from the work place. Employers who rush into urine testing, wouldn't dream of giving every worker a lie detector test. Dr. David Greenblatt, Chief of clinical pharmacology at Tufts medical center called the most widely used tests "essentially worthless."

In 1995, a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded that dark hair absorbed drug residue from the air more intensely, creating opportunities for false positive results on hair follicle drug tests.

The ACLU’s position on drug testing:

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