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
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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
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
- Cost less in health insurance benefits
- Had a higher-than-average rate of promotion
- Exhibited less absenteeism
- Were fired for cause less often than workers who did not
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
"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
"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
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
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
The ACLU’s position on drug testing: