How common are drug testing programs in Canada?
According to a recent survey, about 10% of Canadian worksites and 18% of BC worksites with 100 or more employees have drug testing programs.1 These programs are much more common in the United States, where legislation in the 1980s made drug testing more widespread in all types of companies. In Canada, drug testing is primarily conducted in situations where safety is a concern.
What are they and why are they used?
The most common reason that companies adopt drug testing policy is to reduce industrial accidents related to drug use. Some employers have argued that simply using drugs, whether on or off the job, increases the likelihood that employees will have a job accident.
The most common form of drug testing in Canada is urinalysis. This test analyzes urine from employees for recent use of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines. There are several situations where employees may be asked to comply with a drug test. Testing is sometimes requested from job applicants. Employees may be tested either on a random basis or after a job accident. If employees test positive for drugs, there are often negative consequences, which can include being fired.
1. Macdonald, S., Csiernik, R., Durand, P. et al. (2006). The prevalence and factors related to Canadian workplace health programs. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 97(2), 121-125.
Scott Mac Donald is Assistant Director at the Centre for Addictions Research of BC and Associate Professor at the School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria. He has been involved in research on addictions issues for over 25 years
*reprinted from Visions: BC’s Mental Health and Addictions Journal, 2009, Vol. 5 No. 3, p. 23,24