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Experts say more American workers use prescription drugs

After the recent arrest of 37 people at a Philadelphia Boeing plant, experts believe there is an increase in prescription drug use by American workers. While many employees are already subject to an invasive drug test prior to being hired, these reports could lead to more random drug tests for current Silver Spring employees.

Because the current and former Boeing employees that were recently arrested were working on military aircraft, the federal government has become particularly critical of its employees. Currently, federal employees do not need to worry about forgoing their privacy rights by taking drug tests that check for prescription drug use, but there is a possibility that things may soon change. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommended in a July advisory committee meeting to change government drug testing regulations.

It seems that SAMHSA wants to start testing current federal employees for the use of prescription drugs. According to Reuters, the most common types of prescription drugs people use are painkillers, but SAMHSA says that only 2.7 percent of Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in 2010. It would seem somewhat reasonable to consider using invasive drug tests on current employees if there was an epidemic of prescription drug use, but with less than 5 percent of all workers, not just federal workers, allegedly abusing prescription drugs, there doesn't seem to be a reason to infringe on federal employee's privacy rights.

Although employers have some say in whom they choose to hire, once an employee is hired, it seems unfair to fire him or her unless he or she fails to perform his or her job adequately. It is still unknown whether the federal government will accept SAMHSA's recommendations or what the consequence would be for an employee who tests positive for prescription drugs, but federal employees may soon be faced with invasive and intrusive looks into their personal lives.

Source: Reuters, "Boeing arrest points to US workplace drug problems," Anna Yukhananov, Sept. 30, 2011

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