Pubdate: Wed, 27 Dec 2000
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Contact:  200 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10281
Fax: (212) 416-2658
Authors: Jayson R. Jones and Stephen Young
Note: 2 PUB LTEs


I read with interest your Dec. 15 article "U.S. Issues New Rules on 
Drug-Test Accuracy." The accuracy of the tests is certainly in question, 
but so is the rationale behind the drug-testing. Outside of DOT-mandated 
drug tests, private industry demands even tougher pre-employment drug 
testing for 75% of minimum-wage and blue-collar jobs, but for very few 
management or executive jobs.

The Journal of Analytical Toxicology July/August 1997 shows that eating 
many commercially available health foods can cause a positive test result. 
Once you have tested positive for any reason, it is almost impossible to 
ever clear your good name.

I question whether it is necessary to test every burger-flipper and 
parking-lot attendant, while politicians are exempt from testing. I wonder 
at the rationale for urging the testing of public schoolchildren when their 
teachers, coaches and other staff members aren't tested (at least in 
Oregon). Except for DOT-mandated positions, few public employees at any 
level are drug-tested.

I am not opposed to drug-testing for police and certain positions such as 
those who operate airplanes, trains, buses and big trucks, but I can see no 
benefit from the testing of blue-collar workers, while their managers and 
executives aren't tested. The poorest segments of our population are the 
most heavily tested, and that is discriminatory.

Jayson R. Jones, Swisshome, Ore.

While it's heartening to see the federal government finally recognizing 
some unfair aspects of drug testing, the whole procedure should be 
abandoned. Drug tests can destroy the reputation of those who have nothing 
to do with drugs, but may actually encourage the use of more dangerous 
drugs by others. Marijuana can be detected by urine tests for weeks after 
use; traces of heroin and cocaine can be found for only a couple days. As 
the weekend starts, a savvy illegal drug user knows to stick to the hard 
stuff. Marijuana never leads to death, as heroin, cocaine and alcohol 
sometimes do; but in a professional sense, it's the least safe drug. As 
usual, the disastrous zero-tolerance tactics of the drug war aggravate drug 
problems while solving nothing.

It's reasonable to implement performance-based testing to confirm or reject 
suspicions that an employee may be impaired on the job. Urine tests, on the 
other hand, have as little intrinsic value as the fluid anaylzed, unless a 
high price is placed on an employer's ability to intrude on the private 
life of a worker.

Stephen Young, Roselle, Ill.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D