With the “drug crisis’ in the news daily, calls for drug screening programs seem to be making headway on all fronts. But there’s one notable exception: Drugstore chains appear to be approaching the issue with extreme caution.
Ty Kelley, spokesman for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said that while his group “supports any effort to control the theft of drugs,’ there is no official NACDS position on drug testing of employees as yet. Most chains are still committed to polygraph programs for their security needs, including screening employees for drug use. Kelley doubted, in fact, that any chains were currently involved in a drug screening program.
Support mounts: Nationally, there is no doubt that the proponents of drug testing are gaining support, particularly in the current climate of alarm over drug abuse. The Senate Labor and Human Resources subcommittee on employment and productivity estimated in 1983 that 22 million Americans used marijuana regularly and that three to seven million people in the work force used some form of illicit drug on a daily basis. According to subcommittee chairman Senator Dan Quale (R., Ind.), substance abusers make up 8% to 17% of the work force.
Many of the Fortune 500 companies already use some kind of drug test on their employees. The largest testing program in the United States is the one run by the military, which administers more than three million tests each year. The Reagan Administration would like to enforce mandatory testing for all government employees in sensitive positions.
Opposed to this growing pressure for testing is a backlash of concern about the damage to civil liberties and invasion of privacy. There are also some doubts about the efficacy of the tests. Many screening tests are reported to register false-positive results for OTC medications or even, it is reported, some herbal teas. On the other hand, there are rumored to be ways in which savvy drug abusers can “beat’ the tests.
Perhaps because of their greater sophistication about drug testing, chain drugstores do not seem to be stampeding toward such programs. “It would be a pretty bold step at this oint,’ said one chain executive, “especially considering all the ways to get around the test and all the questions about the security of the samples.’
Perhaps for the moment, pharmacists’ chief interest in the tests is as a potential new product to be marketed. At least one of the tests, called Aware, from American Drug Screens Inc. of Dallas, is currently available in pharmacies (Drug Topics, Aug. 4).
More to come: There is little doubt that pressure for wide-spread drug screening will increase, particularly as more screening tests are being backed up with more precise confirmatory tests. Is there a drug screening test in every employee pharmacist’s future? “I suspect that if the polygraph were to be banned by federal law,’ Kelley allowed, “our members would consider going to drug testing programs.’
Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
Weiss, Barbara. “Drug screening viewed with caution by chains.” Drug Topics 20 Oct. 1986: 42. General OneFile. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.