Mental Health Month at the Office: Fix Your Drug Testing Policies

by Evil HR Lady on May 24, 2018

My great-grandmother, Ethel Reynolds Smith, died in a mental hospital.

Her husband’s biography recorded her illness as follows:

“These down moods were cyclical, coming and going at irregular intervals and varying in their strength and duration. In time they came with greater frequency and intensity, causing deep feelings of depression and fear that so disturbed Ethel that she was unable to perform her daily tasks.”

“At other times her mind raced beyond control forcing her exhausted body to do more and more. Today, her condition would probably be diagnosed as a chemical imbalance. But in her day, they could only rely on prayer, priesthood blessings, and medical treatments that had no lasting relief. She died on August 26, 1937.”

I think about her often, and how grateful she would have been for medication that worked. Medication that many of her descendants (including me) take on a regular basis. People who take medication for mental health conditions shouldn’t start or stop these life-saving drugs without the advice of their doctors, but sometimes your company policies may encourage someone to stop.

To keep reading, click here: Mental Health Month at the Office: Fix Your Drug Testing Policies

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth West May 24, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Just stop testing for desk jobs. Just stop. It’s ridiculous, invasive, and a waste of money.

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grannybunny May 24, 2018 at 4:46 pm

I disagree. Some drug side effects can affect performance and/or conduct.

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Jennifer May 24, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Sure, and if you have performance troubles, then maybe you test? But there’s no good reason to routinely test.

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Goober May 24, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Unfortunately, addicts have a nasty history of going to extremes to support their habits, like stealing equipment or embezzling company money. There are desk jobs where it’s a legitimate concern.

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BethRA May 24, 2018 at 7:12 pm

People who don’t use drugs have performance problems, and people who don’t use drugs embezzle and steal stuff. Lots of people who do use illegal drugs DON’T steal and are high-functioning. So maybe dealing with performance issues directly, and setting up good controls to prevent anyone from stealing or embezzling is a better option?

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the gold digger May 25, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Exactly. I know high-performing lawyers and doctors – who are also excellent parents – who smoke marijuana on the weekends. Deal with the real issues when they occur.

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Maria Rose May 24, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Key points of article is to know if job performance will be effected by a specific drug usage which means that all aspects of job have been thoroughly vetted. Certain conditions can trigger stress problems so it can be assumed that they won’t effect performance.
I would think an HR person would be knowledgeable about this especially since they are the ones who selected the drug testing company they send potential employees to.

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Sara Batchelder May 24, 2018 at 9:44 pm

Great article – there is so much bias assigned to many prescription drugs now-a-days. I’m not sure addiction/mental health treatment should be strictly relevant – if someone is productive and doesn’t steal, etc, then what’s the problem? People need to remember that two of the most destructive drugs out there are alcohol and tobacco. If someone drinks every night, and you have no idea that they’re doing that, then why is taking prescription drugs regularly for a medical condition (and you also have no idea) a problem? Recreational use of alcohol and tobacco is way more destructive, and serves no medical purpose. (Sorry for the soap box, but this is important to me). Are these employee drug tests testing for alcohol and tobacco? I guess I’m also wondering what the actual goal here is when testing, and if statistically, it is proven that the tests help employers hire better employees. Does making employees get drug tests make them hide any drug use and not ask for help? Please feel free to educate me! Thanks. (BTW – I’m not for prohibition – it doesn’t work).

From the CDC (these are just death statistics and don’t include disability, etc) –

“Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States”

“An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually”

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Goober May 25, 2018 at 12:54 am

Some employment drug tests do, in fact, check for alcohol. (We had an applicant show up for his drug test legally drunk, though not by very much. His explanation was perfectly reasonable – “Nobody told me not to, and I had nothing else going on that day so I had a few beers” – and we were able to confirm from the lab that he wasn’t driving. We hired him.)

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jdgalt May 26, 2018 at 3:51 am

To what extent does the ADA protect medical privacy?

It seems to me that if we are protected against discrimination for having a medical condition, then drug testing companies ought to be forbidden to test for drugs that treat that condition (or at least forbidden to report a positive once you show the testing company that you have a valid prescription).

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