How drug testing in the United States can ruin people's lives

When children are wrongfully being taken from their parents and homes and devoted employees are losing their jobs due to a flawed and inaccurate system, there is a problem. Drug testing is far from reliable, and when people’s lives are on the line it is necessary to understand that mistakes do occur. Parental drug use during pregnancy is considered by some to be child abuse and neglect. False positives occur 5-10% of the time; a better system should have been created by now. The first few days are crucial between an infant and their mother in terms of bonding, what would happen if those days were taken away from them because of an incorrect drug test?

Drug testing can be conducted in analyses of multiple biological samples including hair, urine, blood, sweat, and saliva. The most common and effective of these tests is a urine analysis and the least effective is saliva analysis. But, out of the estimated 1,200 facilities in the United States that test urine for the presence of drugs, only 85 of them meet the federal standards for accuracy and qualified lab personnel. Drug testing, therefore, is not always an exact science. Approximately 5-10% of tests result in a false positive and 10-15% result in a false negative. There are many ways in which these inaccuracies occur, some of which include:

·      Differences in the purity of the substance

·      The method of drug use (smoking, injection, etc)

·      Regularity of use

·      Differences in people’s metabolic rates

·      Over the counter and prescription medications creating false positives

·      Procedural testing errors

·      Passive inhalation

Some of these inaccuracies occur because of differences between individuals that are uncontrollable. Lotions that contain hemp as one of the ingredients can create a positive drug test result for THC, a common cough medicine can create positive drug test results for codeine, and rolls that contain poppy seeds can test positive for opiates. These inaccuracies aren’t always accepted as excuses for a positive test result. Once a person has tested positive for a drug they are considered guilty and it’s their responsibility to prove otherwise.

When a pregnant woman tests positive for drugs help is not always provided; they are criminalized and more often than not they lose their child to social services. Statistically, poverty is more damaging to an infant’s health than parental drug use, and criminalizing a woman who is struggling instead of providing psychosocial support is not the path to helping her. In certain hospitals within the United States an actual drug test is not even required in order to call DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services), the infant only has to appear as though it is suffering from parental drug use.

Drug testing is a massive money industry. In a generation where money is tight and being laid-off from a job is becoming increasingly more common, drug testing has transformed into a method of cheaply firing staff. Companies who need to make cuts hire drug-testing companies to test their staff in order to fire them without being forced to pay them redundancies. The drug testing companies are making incredible amounts of money off the expensive testing and so are companies that provide methods to pass these tests. If an employee or a mother tests positive for an illicit drug, it is up to them to pay for the necessary tests and representation to discredit the test. Once an employee has lost their job due to a failed drug test finding another source of employment becomes almost impossible. Confirmatory tests are far more expensive than the initial tests. When mothers are on welfare and employees are at risk of losing their source of income confirmatory tests aren’t usually done, meaning they have lost their option to disprove the initial drug test.