drug testing

Drug testing is routinely used by companies for pre-employment (or randomly during employment), by police for those on parole, and even for socio-economically disadvantaged people to receive food stamps (varies by state). I have no idea how accurate these tests are or what someone’s recourse is for a false positive. There is apparently a long list of legal substances that can cause you to fail a drug test.

I have concerns about the use of these tests and a broader concern about the US “war on drugs” and the mass incarceration of people (mostly poor and black) convicted of petty drug crimes. Parolees could literally go back to prison over a false positive. Job candidates could be denied a job or (worse) fired for failing the test. Welfare recipients could be denied benefits over a false positive with very little chance of recourse. One might argue against the welfare state here, and I understand that argument, but that’s not the point: having to take the test in the first place is humiliating and expensive for the state, and losing one’s benefits unfairly and with little legal recourse would be disastrous for many people, and worse for those (obviously poor people) who receive welfare.

Of a more personal concern is the fact that I’ve started using St John’s Wort. There’s little chance of a drug screen in my future, and perhaps little chance of failing it if it did occur (based on some quick internet research, for what that’s worth), but it nonetheless begs the question of how concerned I should be. Perhaps not very at present. But if I left my current job for any reason, would it be wise to suspend taking the SJW? Despite the fact that my depression could come back at precisely the time when I would want to keep it at bay?

Perhaps I’m worrying over nothing, but perhaps the whole concept of drug testing for the masses is misguided. Except for specific contexts, I don’t see who it protects, but it’s easy to imagine who is harmed, namely in the case of false positives and the expense and ramifications that would ensue.

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