Screening Room


Yesterday the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published its new drug testing guidelines, which take effect in six months, following a three-month comment period. SAMHSA's rules, which apply to federal employees and workers in regulated industries, are also widely followed by private employers. As expected, the new guidelines allow the use of saliva, sweat, and hair testing in addition to urinalysis. NORML's Allen St. Pierre notes (and SAMSHA concedes) that the new methods have drawbacks: Environmental contamination can compromise saliva and hair testing, for example, and the latter method is also affected by hair color. But the biggest disadvantage of hair testing may be its long window of detection (several months), which further widens the gap between drug test results and job performance.

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  1. Does this mean we are going to see a wave of shaved head professionals?

  2. Could women (or Sikh men) sue on grounds of discrimination? If hair grows at a rate of a half-inch a month, then some of my hair is about four years old. I am a non-drug-user now, but that wasn’t necessarily true back when I was in graduate school. So, a man with short hair can hide the fact that he smoked the ol’ debbil weed four years ago, whereas a woman such as myself can still be held accountable?

  3. Luca:
    Not to be indelicate, but there *are* other places where there is hair, like the legs, arms and err…

  4. I have a lot of friends that shave almost their entire bodies.

  5. Er… body.

  6. “I am a non-drug-user now…”

    You use non-drugs, Jennifer?
    Where can I get some of those?
    Are there side effects?

  7. Stickler-
    Non-drugs are just like real drugs, except they don’t get you high. The side effect is that you look like a total dork, sucking on a bong that exists only in your head.

    (If I wanted to be irritatingly pedantic I’d diagram my sentence to prove the propriety of my grammar. There IS a difference between non-drug-user versus non-drug user (note the hyphen) but since I am not currently stoned I don’t particularly care.)

    And as for the other comments. . .unless you are a professional porn star your pubic hair is none of your bosses’ goddamned business.

  8. neither is your bloodstream, unless you’re fucking up. and let’s face it, the fucking up part should be the kicker.

    what do companies get out of drug testing? insurance breaks? it seems like a lot of work and money to go through for something that should be a efficiency issue.

  9. Stickler:
    {You use non-drugs, Jennifer? Where can I get some of those? Are there side effects?}

    A different take from Jennifer’s: There are a number of “non-drugs.” The most common are alcohol and nicotine. My non-drug of choice is caffeine.

    Side effects are similar to drugs, with one exception. No legal problems.

    I used to work for a corporation that had a strong anti-drug policy, including regular and random urine tests and a zero-tolerance-for-any-drug rule. One of the benefits of working there was the bring-your-own-mug take-all-you-want soft drink dispenser.

    I can just see the next addendum to their HR policy manual. “No employee shall adopt grooming practices that result in the inability to obtain a hair sample one inch (1″) in length.”

    Is this why my Granddad was so ticked off when my Dad got his first flattop?

  10. Logically speaking, placing “non” before a noun means you are everything BUT the noun. The set of “Non-A” includes everything in the universe that isn’t A. Therefore, non-drug-users include rapists, serial adulterers, and Presidents.

  11. Stickler-
    Actually, “drug” was an adjective in this case. User is the noun, drug is the adjective modifying the noun, and non further modifies the adjective ‘drug.’

    I thought of something else–Orthodox Jewish women will often shave their heads on their wedding day and wear wigs for the rest of their lives. Will they be under suspicion of drug use?

  12. Jennifer:
    {If “performance” were the issue they’d have performance tests, which are cheaper and far less invasive.}

    But if we started testing performance we might discover that a majority of recreational drug users consume in such a way that their performance doesn’t suffer. And that would blow the main anti-drug argument clean out of the water.

    Can’t have that.

  13. Jennifer-

    There are still other places where hair samples can be obtained besides the top of the skull…

    Yes, that was a nasty thought. But obtaining hair samples to test for drugs is absolutely crucial for protecting The Children. So, ladies, submit to degrading drug tests for The Children!

  14. Anybody have good information about where we can register our complaints with SAMHSA, as opposed to each other? We don’t change policy by preaching to the choir.

  15. “We don’t change policy by preaching to the choir.”

    Been here long, boing?

  16. Everybody sing along with me:

    “Yes I’m proud to be an American,
    Where at least I know I’m free
    Except for when my government
    orders me to pee. . .
    Yes there is no doubt I love this laaaaaand.
    God help the USA!”

    Whoops. Did I say “God help the USA?” I meant to say “God BLESS the USA.” Freudian slip.

    Where did you get the idea that the government still listens to us? Various states, and DC, have voted to legalize medical marijuana, and the government voided those votes. People facing federal trials for medical marijuana are forbidden by law to mention that their actions were legal under state law.

  17. My country ’tis of thee,
    Land where I take a pee,
    Or jail I see.

    Land where my leader lied,
    Land where my tax is high,
    From every mountainside,
    We who pee are free.

  18. I agree with Evil Bastards: “Drugs destroy lives, so to prevent people from destroying their lives, a compassionate government must lock these folks in jail. A life spent making license plates and getting raped in the shower is MUCH better than a life squandered getting stoned and watching South Park reruns.”

    I am trying to write more American song parodies. Here’s one in progress:

    “O beautiful, for spacious skies
    filled with polluted air.
    For every day more soldiers die
    and no one seems to care!

    America, America
    God’s turned his face from Thee,
    and [I need eight more syllables]
    Now drop your pants and peeeeeeeeee!”

    Can anyone think of a replacement for the “crown thy good with brotherhood” part? Prefereably something drug-related.

  19. Jennifer,

    How do I say this nicely…?
    Please stop.

  20. Crackpot-
    No offense, but I don’t take advice from crackpots.

  21. Lets see:
    Drug testing industry associations come up with estimates of dollars lost to drug abuse. Corporations “believe” the number and use that number to justify to their internal processes to begin testing. Hmmm….

    Seems like a class-action lawsuit could do nicely…”prove to us shareholders this is a valid expense.”

    I wonder if claims, not only of direct waste but also, of excluded talent would fly? How do you prove excluded talent? Find someone who was turned down for a failed test then went on to another company that benefited materially from the talent in question.

    You can tell from my infantile legal idea that I’m not a lawyer but you get my drift. Make stupidity pay.

    On the practical side of things…a place where a company might have a legitimate reason to not want people high such as a manufacturing facility, drug testing for Schedule I substances is so terribly naive. Pills are the biggest thing going. What? Are plants going to need to see a doctors note before they let you put something in your mouth?

  22. “(I’m not a drug user but stories like this make me want to go bathe in a tubful of LSD.)”

    Let me know if you find a tubfull of LSD…I’ll join you. Mmmmm acid… so fun.

  23. To Idont etc.–

    I was thinking something similar; could NORML or some such group try to organize a boycott of companies who test their employees?

    Also–if drugs are outlawed on the basis of performance, then is it conceivable that over-the-counter drugs could come under fire next? Already most states (reasonably enough, I might add) make it illegal to drive under the influence of certain cold remedies and such. From personal experience, I’d say that I can handle out-and-out marijuana better than I can handle Nyquil. Even Dayquil, the non-drowsy counterpart, makes me feel kind of. . .caaaaalm. Flatline. That’s why I try not to take it unless I have a TRULY miserable cold.

  24. Oops. Forgot the point of my last post, which was: coul companies next start requiring employees to stayu away from NyQuil, DayQuil and other members of the Quil family?

  25. Um…you don’t have to be a porn star to be without pubic hair. 😉

    We don’t change policy by preaching to the choir.”

    Been here long, boing?

    Oh, I needed that. Thanks!

  26. “Non-drugs are just like real drugs, except they don’t get you high. The side effect is that you look like a total dork, sucking on a bong that exists only in your head.”

    I was taking a drink of water when I read that and almost choked trying not to spit the water out. That was a good one, Jennifer. By the way, I LOVE the Quil family when I am sick. I just sleep until I recover.

    I worked for years for an engineering/construction company. We had drug testing at all our construction sites, but I often saw guys drinking beer in their trucks in the parking lot before they went in for the day. Someone else told me of his employer holding a meeting to announce their new zero tolerance policy on drugs, followed by an open bar.

  27. Jennifer

    “The prez is a hood ,up to no good” works. And it should work for at least the next hundred terms.


  28. Mudflap-
    Yes, but it has one syllable too many. The rhythm of accented and unaccented syllables doesn’t fit, either.

    I truly care about such things.

    Thank you.

  29. I don’t see what the big deal is. Drug testing only really affects the lowest paying of jobs–the kind of jobs where you actually fill out premade applications instead of send your resume.

    Which is good. Maybe it will encourage those lazy bottom rungers to get off the pot and make something of themselves for once in their miserable drug-addled lives.

  30. Pavel-
    I hate this planet on which I live. Can I come live on yours instead?

  31. Pavel,
    I can introduce you to plenty of people with six figure incomes required to take drug tests. I have met at least one guy who admitted giving up drugs because of mandatory drug testing. He told me that, due to drug testing at construction sites, he became a pipe welder. He was not going to continue being an ironworker if he could not get high. However, another pipe welder loaned me the book “Steal This Urine Test” by Abby Hoffman, which offers methods of beating the drug tests. I read it out of purely academic interest.

  32. Pavel,
    I worked in institutional trading and there were mandatory drug tests for all new hires. Granted, it wasn’t random, but they still were required. Most major corporations still drug test.

  33. Well my attempt at humor failed miserably.

    From my limited experience, the only jobs I’ve evern known to actually test myself or anyone I know were relatively menial. With a few exceptions that’s always seemed to be the case…I’ll have to consult the data.

    Jennifer. You can still come over, my pet.

  34. Pavel-
    Oh. Ah. Make your sarcasm more evident, like so:

    “The only people who have to take drug tests are those with menial jobs, anyway. I mean, if you think dignity is such a big fucking deal, why work for the Feds in the first place?”

    I know there are foods which, if eaten, will make your urine stink to high heaven. Americans have a patriotic duty to make piss-testers utterly miserable in their jobs, thus encouraging them to quit.

  35. No one has to work for an organization that makes them take drug test – government or otherwise. If you don’t want a drug test from your employer, don’t consent to it and live with the consequences.

  36. JDM-
    Easier said than done. Most people haven’t that choice. Remember: unless you’re some super-unique person like Stephen Hawking, chances are you need your employer far more than your employer will ever, ever need you. (That is why I subscribe to the utterly unlibertarian idea of worker protection laws.)

  37. JDM,

    Its people like you who make this counrty less free and severly shitty. When I am on my employer’s time, they get all of me 110% sober and ready to go. When I go home, I expect my employer to stay at work. Face it, the drug testing industry is making a buck off my loss of privacy. Thats fucking wrong Ethically and Morally since it completely circumvents my basic human rights. These inalienable rights cannot be trumped by any private or governmental employer. Futhermore, it presumes I am guilty putting the burden of proof of my innocence soley on me. Doesn’t that seem quite anti-fucking-American to you?

  38. I think “job performance” stopped being the issue long ago; they’re just looking for sheep who obey all rules, however useless. If “performance” were the issue they’d have performance tests, which are cheaper and far less invasive.

    (I’m not a drug user but stories like this make me want to go bathe in a tubful of LSD.)

  39. laughing my ass off.

    cousin of ROTFLMAO.

    i wonder if asprin still interferes with certain tests.

  40. Stephen Hamking is a poor example. He can barely even move his head. If his employer (the President of Oxford?) wanted to drug test him, they’d just have to knock over his wheelchair and tap into his catheter bag. There’s not much he could do about it.

    I’m no Stephen Hawking. I have the intelligence of a large rodent, and the money managment skills of a drunk cowboy on his first night in town after a long cattle drive, but I have walked away from more than one job in my life. None of them for reasons as high-minded as preserving the basic human rights of all Americans.

  41. Oh, I completely agree with s.a.m., except for the personal judgment at the beginning. That really is taking micromanagement to the nth degree by following you home and invading your privacy.

    You know, if all drugs were legal, this wouldn’t be an issue. They don’t fire you when they find alchohol in your system, because it’s legal to drink off the clock.

  42. I’ve always maintained that I will agree to take a drug test if Nancy Reagan will hold the cup.

  43. Linda-
    Actually, when I was out of grad school and looking for a job a few years back, I applied for a part-time position at a library in central COnnecticut and the form said I would have to take a “drug and alcohol test.” Because, you know, the number of fatalities caused by drunk library assistants is just so fucking astronomical.

  44. LMAO, Jennifer

    Yeah, it says alcohol, but they’re really looking for the illegal stuff more than anything.

    I’ll tell you though, the people who don’t want drugs found in their system, but want that job will go to extraordinary lengths to pass the pee test. My husband was a med tech before going to med school and he would come home telling me the most interesting stories about people smuggling pee into the lab in plastic bags against their body so that the temperature would be what it needed to be to pass the test.

    Again, if drugs were legal…sorry, off in fantasy land again.

  45. “I agree with Evil Bastards: “Drugs destroy lives, so to prevent people from destroying their lives, a compassionate government must lock these folks in jail. A life spent making license plates and getting raped in the shower is MUCH better than a life squandered getting stoned and watching South Park reruns.”

    Reminds me of part of a routine by Bill Hicks: “Thank goodness they caught me. What was I doing ruinin’ my life with that marijuana? I wanna thank Bubba, my new rehabilitator.”

  46. “LMAO?”

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