Drug Use Has Increased During the Pandemic - American Society of Employers - Susan Chance

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Drug Use Has Increased During the Pandemic

This has been a challenging year to say the least. COVID has drastically changed our lives both at home and work. Human resources professionals have had to pivot on a dime many times over the past nine months. One of those areas is in drug testing.

Now that most of us are working form home, how does HR maintain policies, procedures, and safety regarding drug testing? This is an important question, because with all the stress from the pandemic and people working from home, alcohol and drug use is on the rise. Added to that is the concern about the health risks of going to public places.

Specimen collection for drug tests is typically done in a clinical environment, and that is the good news. Clinics were already used to following strict protocols for health, safety, and drug specimen collection. Those protocols had to be ramped up due to COVID, but most locations adjusted quickly. Some simple changes include having people wait in their cars until they receive a text message telling them it is time for them to come into the clinic for the collection. This keeps lobbies from being crowded, allows for better physical distancing, and gives the necessary time to sanitize in between collections and other appointments.


Employers have had to make some changes too. Many drug policies have had to be updated. Little has changed in drug testing that is regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT), but the DOT has provided guidance on testing in relation to COVID concerns. Even if your drug testing program is not DOT regulated, you may still want to review the guidelines to see if any of those requirements can help your practices. There are some considerations to be given to the polices during this time:

  • Your policy most likely refers to the “workplace,” but does the language “include any location where work is performed by the employee for the employer?” Our homes have become our workplaces, but this does not mean that we can crack open a cold one while working or use any other substances prohibited in the workplace.
  • Besides the normal HR concerns about qualifying medical conditions, does your policy address what to do if an employee is afraid of potentially contracting COVID at a testing facility?
  • Have you considered testing employees who have been furloughed and are now being called back to work?
  • Does your policy state that employees must wear masks and follow other safety protocols when they go for drug tests? 


Clinical Reference Laboratories reports the following increases in positive drug tests:





With such a dramatic increase, it is clear that employers have to continue their drug testing programs and be sure to update polices to include COVID related issues.

Additional ASE Resources
ASE Drug Screening - ASE can service all your drug screening needs and assist you with creating or updating a drug screening policy.  For more information contact Susan Chance.








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