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Drug Use Trends and Drug Testing


The most fundamental question of all may be whether drug testing has had any effect on drug use in the United States. That question is, of course, a very complex one. Drug use.is associated with a great many factors, behavior at work being just one. However, critics do point to one interesting phenomenon. The greatest demand for drug testing programs came in the second half of the 1980s. During that period, proponents of testing argued that the problem of drug use was out of control in the United States. Drug testing was needed to stem the tide of the nation's drug problem. Yet, during that time, abuse of all illegal drugs was decreasing continuously among all age groups. It is difficult to credit the initiation of drug testing programs in the late 1980s for a decrease in drug use that began at least five years earlier.

Ironically, as drug testing programs have become popular, drug use in the mid-1990s, particularly among young people, appears to be on the increase. Proponents of testing say that this increase may be due to a decline in public drug education programs. However, it is also fair to ask how an increase in drug abuse can occur at a time when drug testing in the workplace has become so widely used.

Finally, the most basic claim made by drug testing proponents may well be the potential for identifying drug abusers in American society. If more than 70 percent of all illegal drug users are employed, then a thorough workplace drug testing program should be able to identify significant numbers of drug abusers.  Nearly 60% of positive tests were for marijuana, with another 18% for cocaine.

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