Pubdate: Sat, 15 Apr 2000
Source: Financial Times (UK)
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 2000
Contact:  1 Southwark Bridge, London, SE1 9HL, UK
Fax: +44 171 873 3922
Author: Ethan A. Nadelmann, Director, The Lindesmith Center


Sir, Drug testing, in US schools and in the workplace, is based on faulty
logic. It invades the privacy of millions in order to detect thousands -
most of whom are casual marijuana users. If we were to disqualify from
public office anyone who had ever smoke marijuana, we would lose at least
one presidential candidate; Congress and the courts would be much
diminished; and almost 50 per cent of Americans between the ages of 20 and
50 would be banned from public office.

Second, drug testing easily becomes a surrogate for good management,
distracting attention from the many other factors that can impair employee
performance, including sleep deprivation and poor morale. Furthermore, most
drug testing reveals much more about what a person consumed last night or
over the weekend, and little about whether they are impaired at work. And -
bizarrely - if you want to pass a urine test on Monday morning, it is
"safer" to take cocaine and alcohol than to smoke a joint the Friday evening

We started with military personnel and airline pilots. Now we are testing
millions of civilians who work at desk jobs, and the surveillance salesmen
have their sights set on our children. It's the same old logic, driven by an
industry that reaps billions in profits from sales of the latest
drug-detection systems. I wonder when people will finally say "enough". When
drug testing starts to include nicotine products? Or undesirable food
products? Or when employees who test positive are required to take a pill
designed to make them sick the next time they consume a prohibited

Most drug testing programmes do more harm than good. When and where will we
draw the line?

Ethan A. Nadelmann, Director, The Lindesmith Center, 400 West 89th Street,
New York, NY 10019, US
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