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Drug tests tougher to outwit

Sat., Jan. 8, 2005

A friend in college sat on his living room floor, surrounded by a bunch of different bottles, hoping their contents would help him snag a prestigious internship.

The problem? To get the internship, he needed to take a drug test. And he knew he’d never pass.

The bottles were supposed to mask his drug habit — along with all the water he hoped to guzzle and supplements he’d buy from a nutritional store.

Whether you’re a habitual or occasional drug user, such tests can wreck a career — or at least prevent you from getting or keeping a job.

And it is only getting harder for workers to hide such a problem.

More companies have inserted such tests into their hiring process and have added more drugs such as Ecstasy to their testing palette, said Paul Mladineo, vice president of strategic development for Sterling Testing Systems, a New York City-based employment testing company.

Potential bosses are also getting more sophisticated, he added.

Next time you walk into a job interview, instead of herding you off-site for a urine test, they might pluck a hair off your head or swab the inside of your mouth.

These hair and saliva tests — which federal agencies are thinking about adopting — aren’t as invasive as urine screenings and are better able to foil workers’ attempts to cheat the system.

“A worker can no longer claim that they got lost or couldn’t find the lab,” Mladineo said. “Especially if they need more time to clear something out.”

So what is a worker with a bad habit to do? Tell your superior.

“An employer will be more open to potentially hiring somebody who may have a drug problem if they are open and upfront about it,” Mladineo said.

Just don’t try to cheat the test. “It’s really not that easy,” he added.

About 60 percent of companies nationally test new hires for drugs, according to the American Management Association.

Drug users can hurt a company’s bottom line. Such workers cost employers nationwide $75 billion to $100 billion annually in lost time, accidents, workers’ compensation and health care costs, according to U.S. Labor Department estimates.


 

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