Drug Programs and Testing

James E. Lessenger

Key words: intoxication, withdrawal, addiction, drug testing, substance abuse

In the United States and many Western countries, drug testing and drug programs have become necessary to control drug use in agriculture and decrease accompanying injuries and illnesses. As drug use spreads and more countries add mechanization to agriculture, more drug programs will be necessary.

Drug abuse has become an endemic in all phases of agriculture as in other industries. Research by the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that substance use or dependence among full-time workers aged 18 to 49 in 2000 was 8.1% for alcohol use and 7.8% for illicit drug use. The most recent data indicated that 19.7% of farm workers had used illicit drugs in the year prior to the study. This figure had increased from 10.8% from the previous year (1,2).

Workplace drug use and intoxication has been demonstrated to decrease productivity and increase absenteeism and injuries. Studies performed by the United States Postal Service demonstrated that positive preemployment screens for marijuana and cocaine were associated with increased adverse employment outcomes such as accidents, injuries, and employee behavior discipline. A study performed in a major teaching hospital documented that, as a consequence of preemployment drug testing, the incidence of drug use declines and that drug screening can serve as a deterrent for drug-using persons in applying for employment (3,4).

Studies comparing two manufacturing plants, one that did preemployment drug testing and another that didn't, demonstrated a decreased rate of employee turnover, accidents, and unauthorized absence in the company that did preemployment drug testing (5).

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