The Future of Drug Testing

As drug testing becomes more sophisticated, employers have better ways to screen employees. Also, drug laws are becoming more relaxed, requiring employers to reconsider their drug testing policy.

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The Future of Drug Testing

As drug testing becomes more sophisticated, employers have better ways to screen employees. Also, drug laws are becoming more relaxed, requiring employers to reconsider their drug testing policy.


The ability of drug testing labs to detect chemicals in saliva, urine, and blood samples has gotten very sophisticated. At the same time, many states and municipalities have relaxed their laws regarding drug use, especially related to cannibis. This means that even major employers like Amazon are now treating pot as a minor drug similar to alcohol. A changing scientific and legal climite means that drug testing in the future will likely be different than it is today.

How legalized marijuana is changing the landscape

Marijuana was responsible for much of the drug testing originally put in place. Now that marijuana is legal in many states and municipalities, employers are questioning the value of its testing. Employers with multiple locations may face differing laws regarding marijuana and are scambling to standardize their policy. This may mean that employers stop testing for pot use as part of their pre-employment screening or even during regular employee drug tests. It may also mean that labs provide more than just a simple pass/fail result for marijuana tests, but also that they quantify the results to allow employers to overlook recreational levels. Legalizing majijuana is removing much of the stigma from pot use and employers are commonly treating is like alcohol.

How COVID-19 is changing the landscape

COVID-19 has impacted off-site sample collection, as many testing facilities were impacted by the pandemic. On-site sample collection is likely to become much more common. Difficulty hiring employees and record levels of drug use during the pandemic means that employers are more likely to skp drug testing atogether in order to maximize their pool of potential employees. It's unlikely that hiring policies will change for government agencies, but the effect COVID-19 has had in the private sector is mostly to relax drug testing.

How technology is changing the landscape

While laws and employers are mostly being relaxed regarding drug testing, the technology for detecting drugs continues to improve. New methods of detecting drugs, like this fingerprint scanning device, mean that employers will more easily be able to detect drug use. Additionally, technology can already detect synthetic urine, adulterants, and dilution. As the cost continues to fall, this technology will become common. Falling costs also mean that labs can detect a much broader range of drugs and prescription medications. It is easy to overlook surveillance technology, but this is commonly used to verify everything from sample collection, to processing, to validation. This makes challenging the result of a test increasingly difficult. As the technology continues to improve and costs continue to drop, the temptation of employers to test will increase, especially if jobs become scarce.

How science is changing the landscape

The science of drug testing means that labs are much more methodical in the steps they take, from reducing the chance of contamination, to more meaningful interpretation of results, to better validation. In most cases, this is good news, as it means you are less likely to get a false positive test result. At the same time, if you use drugs, it is also less likely that you will get a false negative. Science is also paying attention to common methods used to try to alter the outcome of drug tests, meaning that beating a drug test will also become harder.

Will drug testing ever go away?

Without laws being passed to regulate the use of drug tests, it's unlikely that drug testing will ever go away. Since the government is a leader in drug testing employees, the chances are low that laws will be passed to get rid of drug testing altogether, but those laws may be relaxed. As long as insurers incentivize drug testing and costs remain low, employers have a strong incentive to continue to conduct drug screens as a condition of employment.