Increased drug testing in UK includes ‘legal highs’

Europe’s working class may need to start being on their best behavior as workplace drug testing is on the rise in the United Kingdom (UK), according to a recently published article in BBC News. Not only are the number and frequency of tests rising, but employers are also starting to test for more “legal highs” including ketamine and steroids.

According to the article, four leading drug screening companies said they have all seen increases between 40% and 470% in the number of drug tests carried out over the last four years. While workers in the UK cannot be forced to take a drugs test, if they refuse, they may face disciplinary action when their employer has good grounds for testing.

“Business leaders’ increased awareness of workplace drug use is a large factor behind the growth,” said Lianne Gray, an official from LC Group, a drug testing company with offices in Europe.

She added that the adoption of a drug-testing policy is “mainly due to insurance purposes,” and while those in “safety-critical roles” (such as operating heavy machinery, driving or government agencies) are more likely to be tested, there is a “growing trend for drug testing to be conducted in more normalized industries” including retail and health companies.

Typical workplace drug tests consist of testing for amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and opiates, but Gray said companies are now requesting  tests for more “novel psychoactive substances” such as ketamine and steroids, as businesses look to “safeguard not only the business, but also their reputation in the field they work in.”

The rise in testing has spurred civil liberties groups to take action, arguing that drug testing is an invasion of people’s privacy outside of safety critical roles. Niamh Eastwood, a representative from a drug advice charity, said she has frequently taken calls from people who had falsely tested positive for drugs.

“Eating poppy seed bread for instance can indicate the presence of opiates in some tests,” she said. “Although drug tests may indicate what substances are in the system, they do not indicate if a worker’s performance is likely to be affected.”

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