Industrial Drug Testing

Oct. 15, 2015

The year was 1987. Disposable contact lenses became available for commercial distribution; the FDA approved anti-AIDS drug AZT and Prozac made its introduction into the United States. Nineteen eighty-seven was also the year Partnership for a Drug-Free America debuted the infamous anti-drug campaign “This Is Your Brain on Drugs.” You know the one…the egg frying in the pan.

Ironically, the cover story for MLO in October 1987 was, “Drug Abuse Screening: Should your lab enter this booming market?” The magazine cover art — a colorful montage of narcotics in their “natural” state — including green marijuana leaves, red opium poppies and yellow coca blooms – seduces your attention like a siren to a sailor.

In 1987, industrial drug testing was a burgeoning specialty.  Essential elements of the article included the importance of skilled specimen collection, test accuracy, confidentiality, (reminding laboratories that they can be subject to defamation suits) and of course, the potential to increase laboratory revenue.

As the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Today, 28 years later, employee drug screening is more popular than ever thanks to greater employment and sky-rocketing drug and substance abuse. The demand for toxicology labs is on fire, estimating a 3 billion dollar industry this year, alone.

However, industry experts say the soaring cost of drug screening is not just a reflection of the increasing use of narcotics, but the unnecessary testing, overbilling and outright fraud by doctors and drug screening companies.

And although industrial drug screening has changed over the years in terms of methods, protocols, and demand, the final result of a positive drug test has not — denial of employment or dismissal.