It is estimated that lost productivity, accidents, and missed work resulting from drug and alcohol use costs companies an average of $7000 annually. The best way to prevent some of these unnecessary costs is through the implementation of both a drug use policy and a drug testing policy. It is important to be aware of the pertinent federal and state law, any laws applicable to the type of work the company does, as well as any state law pertaining to workman’s compensation.


At the federal level, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services and Administration (SAMSHA), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has strict policies outlining the standard procedure for workplace drug screening. Such policies apply to most federal employees, the armed forces, companies contracted by the federal government, and those that receive federal grants. They also apply to those in the transportation industry. In the private sector, an employer’s ability to screen for drugs and alcohol is governed by state law. Private companies are not compelled to adhere to SAMSHA guidelines, but it is considered good practice to do so in case the legality of the testing ever be called into question. Furthermore, administering testing only at SAMSHA approved testing facilities, and testing only for approved substances, is a prudent course of action. As of March 4, 2013, the only approved lab in North Carolina is Laboratory Corporation of America (also known as LabCorp). B

oth s

tate and federal law allow for the testing of amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, phencyclidine, and opiates. Approved testing methods are urine, saliva, blood and hair. According to North Carolina state law, if an individual tests positive for an illegal substance, the employer must notify the individual within 30 days (whether it is an applicant or employee) and explain rights for retesting, which is required by law.

Substance abuse on the job can also be a workman’s compensation issue. In most cases, employee’s injured on the job that are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be covered by their worker’s comp. Some states even have laws that provide discounts on worker’s comp premiums when approved drug and alcohol programs are maintained.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

does not

protect anyone who is found to


be abusing drugs or alcohol. However, the Act does allow employers to implement policies prohibiting employees from using illegal substances and to conduct drug testing. Furthermore, the ADA covers individuals who have completed, or are undergoing rehabilitation, and are no longer using. It is important to consult your attorney when developing your drug policy to ensure that it does not violate the ADA.

According to one national survey, more than 60% of working Americans have attended work while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is important for employers to be aware of the signs that a person is using illegal substances. Management and HR should be trained to detect symptoms of drug use, as well as the proper steps to take if an employee is suspected of such behavior. Education should be provided company-wide to ensure that all employees understand the drug policy, any testing that will be done, and what their rights are.

Consult an attorney to determine the best approach to drug testing for your company or to review the rules already in place. It is important that the policy abides by any applicable federal and state law. Having such a policy will create a drug free workplace to help keep your workplace safe, productive, and healthy.


Compliance with State and Federal Mandates.(n.d.)

National Drug Screen.

Retrieved March 9, 2013 from

How does substance abuse effect the workplace? (n.d.)

United States Department of Labor.

Retrieved March 9, 2013 from

North Carolina-State Law Drug and Alcohol Testing Issues at a Glance. (n.d.)

Pocket Part40 North Carolina

. Retrieved on March 9, 2013 from

The Cost of Employee Substance Abuse. (n.d.)

National Drug Screen.

Retrieved March 9, 2013 from