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Substance Abuse Testing

I understand employers can request drug testing. What should I expect?

Substance abuse not only affects your mental and physical health, but also your family, friends and employers. Alchohol Anonymous teaches that for every alcoholic, twelve people are affected. Unfortunately, those twelve people will be the ones you care about most.

Substance abuse has become a $100 billion a year problem for employers. When employees call in sick or cannot work to their full potential, an employer loses productivity and revenue. Furthermore, mistakes made while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to a faulty product and lost customers. Add to this the cost of insurance and treatment for employees with substance abuse problems, and employers are forced to have a firm no-drug policy.

Employers have several different ways of screening applicants to determine a potential substance abuse problem. They may test urine, hair or blood samples, ask you to take a polygraph (lie detector) test, and directly question you. They may also ask your views on drugs - if they should be legalized, if you consider casual use acceptable, etc. Some employers will tell you in advance of testing, others prefer unannounced testing. If you lie about drug use and tests prove that you use drugs, you can be fired for lying. If you refuse to take a test, it will probably be interpreted as a sign of drug use. If you are tested, be sure to mention any prescription and over-the-counter drugs you take to the test administrator before the test is given. Ask what would cause a positive result - it depends on the type of test used, the type of drug, and how long ago the drug was used. Inquire if any foods or drinks can trigger a false positive result - poppy seeds are an example.

If you feel you need help with a drug or alcohol problem, contact your doctor or look in the yellow pages for treatment centers and support groups. Infoline is a telephone service that links callers to appropriate help; to contact them dial 211.

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