Working Under The Influence

Working Under The Influence
Posted by CN Staff on January 26, 2003 at 08:31:14 PT
By Jennifer Morey, The Times-Standard 
Source: Times-Standard 
How many of your co-workers went out and got stoned or had a beer on their breaks last week, or came in hung over one morning after a night on the town?Other than smelling liquor on their breath or marijuana smoke on their clothing, would you know how to recognize the signs of a substance abuse problem in a co-worker? Even if you did, what, if anything, would or could you do about it?
The answers are complicated, touchy and fraught with doubts for many employees and their supervisors. On the one hand, you don't want to invade someone's privacy and you think it's probably not your business what they do in their non-work time."Co-workers get put in a tough place, afraid to report a problem but angry at how it affects them," said Michael Goldsby, formerly the director of St. Joseph Hospital's Family Recovery Services program (now closed) and currently a service provider in the hospital's Human Resources department. "Some workers silently suffer through a co-worker's addiction, doing more than their share of work."On the other hand, regardless of whether they're jeopardizing safety or their continued employment, workers with a substance abuse problem are no different from a family member with a substance abuse problem. It affects everyone around them, and needs to be addressed in some way.Indeed, many people think of their co-workers as part of their extended family. We certainly don't want to see them lose their jobs, health, families or yes, sometimes their lives, yet we hesitate to interfere."Just like a dysfunctional family, the dysfunctional workplace rewards silence and punishes vocal honesty," said Goldsby.Regardless of who takes the first step in confronting someone who appears to have a problem, it behooves their employers and co-workers alike to do something. Americans consume 60 percent of the world's illegal drugs, but the vast majority of those users are not lying somewhere in a trashed-out apartment, oblivious for weeks on end. Almost three-fourths of the country's substance abusers are employed.But that doesn't mean they're contributing all they could to the country's bottom line. Substance abuse costs the United States an estimated $100 billion a year in lost productivity. Health-care costs are three times higher, and the chances of having an on-the-job accident four times higher, for those who abuse alcohol or drugs.When is it a problem?Let's say you are the one who had that beer at lunch, or you smoke an occasional joint on the weekends. Does this necessarily mean you have a substance abuse problem?Most would say "No." And let's face it, many a deal has been clinched with the help of a martini to grease the skids, and a frazzled supervisor might have a glass of merlot with lunch hoping it just might keep her from walking off the job when she gets back. With workplace stress and pressure to perform being what it is these days, there are few among us who haven't sat back in our chairs and muttered, "God, I need a drink."The time to suspect there's a problem is when the occasional drink at lunch turns into a daily occurrence, or your assistant falls asleep at his desk after getting stoned in the parking lot on his break, or your supervisor shows up late Monday mornings with bloodshot eyes and looking like she lost five pounds in two days. Or doesn't show up at all."You may smoke or drink once a week or so, and you may continue to do your job for a time, but sooner or later it's going to have an effect," said Paula Nedelcoff, director of the Humboldt Family Service Center. "Somebody might think to themselves, 'If nobody holds me accountable and I'm still going to get a paycheck, then maybe I might take that a little farther and farther.'"The problem, said Nedelcoff, comes when the occasional user keeps taking it that little bit farther, and soon they've gone too far.Substance abusers who progress to the point of actual addiction tend to show a gradual loss in productivity, Goldsby said."The addiction makes them less efficient, less productive, making more mistakes and not caring about quality or quantity," he said. "And a surprising number of addicts use during work hours. But, typically, with late-stage addiction, work becomes less and less important as the drug becomes more and more important. I saw a baseball cap at a liquor store with the slogan, 'Work: The curse of the drinking class.' That sums it up."Absenteeism is the most obvious problem in the workplace caused by substance abuse. A typical pattern includes people who call in sick often on Monday mornings, or people who miss work around payday. However, Goldsby said, some alcoholics think they don't have a problem because they haven't missed a day of work in years. And that's where careful observation comes in. Supervisors and co-workers may start to notice a difference in performance. One place it can be noticeable is in jobs that involve physical labor or working with machinery, such as at a lumber company."What happens is, if the onshift supervisor suspects a problem, they'll get a witness," said Randy Robertson, labor relations/employee development administrator at Simpson Timber Co. "If that person confirms it, says 'Yes, something doesn't look right,' they'll confront the person."How do you handle it? Two words sum up the rules for confrontation: Diplomacy and consistency. Seasoned professionals know that compassion goes farther than provocation. It's part of management training at Simpson."They've been trained how to confront in a caring, honest manner that's not threatening," said Robertson. "What they say first is, 'You've got a problem. Your job may be in jeopardy. You've been consistently late. We need to talk about what's going on in your life.'"According to Goldsby, one element of a comprehensive workplace drug policy is that it should be clear and consistent. Like many employers, Humboldt Bank has done its homework in this area."We have a formal drug and alcohol abuse employee policy," said Dave Turner, human resources director for Humboldt Bank. "It prohibits employees from possessing, distributing or being under the influence while on company premises, and provides for disciplinary action. It's a 'zero tolerance' policy."Consistency means managers need to keep track of every incident and changes in appearance or behavior. "Supervisors need to keep some notes on past problems to determine if a pattern is developing," Goldsby said. "Failure to document is a big problem."Nedelcoff concurs on the importance of note-taking."You don't have to be the Gestapo to hold people accountable," she said. "If Mary is constantly late on Mondays and always looks unkempt, you want to really document that appearance."Knowing how to confront someone who might have a substance abuse problem is not necessarily intuitive. This is especially true for a supervisor who has come up through the ranks and has never had any formal management training.Training can take the form of in-house seminars or might be obtained from an outside service such as Humboldt Family Service Center. Another local resource is the Northcoast Employer Advisory Council, which holds monthly lunch seminars for its 120 local employer-members.At a meeting last fall, Goldsby presented an overview of "Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Workplace." One of his handouts lists possible symptoms of drug or alcohol problems:* Lack of alertness* Impaired judgment* Memory lapses* Inability to stay on task* Abuse of break times* Inattention to details* Extreme sensitivity to criticism* Anger, or the reverse, apathyFocusing on performance avoids the appearance of passing judgment, making a diagnosis of substance dependence or psychiatric determinations. Goldsby recommends looking at how work and attendance are affected and whether customers or co-workers have complained.What happens if the employee is confronted but doesn't want to talk about the problem? The best course of action is referral to either a health-care provider or other professional who is trained and equipped to deal with the problem. In Simpson's case, Robertson said, the employee is told to contact the company's employee assistance program.EAPs can help Many large employers offer these confidential programs to their employees, and smaller companies are starting to offer them more and more. Humboldt Family Service Center is one local program provider.The center's counselors are mostly interns or graduate students in psychology. They take the self-referred cases -- that is, employees who decide on their own to seek help -- and Nedelcoff, as a licensed clinician, handles the employer-referral cases as well as reviewing all the interns' cases. Employers can contract with the nonprofit agency for services in several ways."We provide a retainer rate beginning at $20 per employee per year," said Nedelcoff. "We also provide services on a fee-for-service or hourly basis."Another local agency offering an employee assistance program is the Community Health Alliance of Humboldt-Del Norte. The program was introduced last fall and came out of the Speed Prevention & Awareness Network. It's offered to employers with 10 or more employees for $4.60 per employee per month."We have a very generous plan," said program coordinator Caryn Lowe. "The mental health plus the alcohol and other drug benefit can work together."Employees, their families and partners are eligible every six months for an initial interview plus three sessions with a drug and alcohol counselor, and/or three sessions with a licensed mental health clinician. Lowe said the plan is client-driven."We want to give clients as many choices as possible," she said. "We want them to feel like they're in an emotionally safe place for them."It is estimated that for every $1 invested in employee assistance services, employers save $3 to $15 from increased productivity. A study conducted at Chevron in 1998 showed that employees' performance improved 50 percent after supervisors referred them to the program."The EAP really helps bridge the gap, and identifies for the employee and the employer where they are in the substance abuse process," said Nedelcoff. Sometimes substance abuse problems will come to light when an employee sees a counselor for some other reason. "Somebody came in recently for marital issues, and 15 minutes into it I asked, 'How much pot are you using?'" Nedelcoff said. "One is using every day, the other occasionally but drinks frequently. Well, they're having marital issues, yes, but they also have a substance abuse problem."Co-dependency and depression also come up a lot."You have a depressed 50-year-old," she said. "Well, gee, she's been living with a drunk all her life, and she's menopausal, no wonder she's depressed."That's why mental health counseling and substance abuse counseling often go hand in hand. "They work in tandem," said Lowe. If an employee needs further treatment, case managers work with them to identify options, such as outpatient or inpatient programs. Some of the local programs include Humboldt Recovery Center, Crossroads and the Humboldt County Alcohol and Other Drug program. Abuse of prescription medications is also something employers and counselors should look for. The person may have a prescription for Xanax or Vicodin, but do they need to use it every day?What about drug testing? Prescription drugs as well as illicit ones show up in drug tests, a procedure that is still controversial many years after becoming common in the workplace. Pre-employment testing is now done by most large companies, and many smaller ones are starting to test as well."We have smaller organizations that require it because either they drive trucks, or they just want a clean and sober organization," said Randy Hansen, co-owner of Express Personnel Service.Random testing of employees after they're hired is most often limited to those required by the Department of Transportation to pass such tests. Health Screening Services, owned by Dr. Lawrence Staton, is the local DOT tester and also does testing for local companies."I run the consortium in this area for truck drivers, the randomization program for the federal government," Staton said. The law mandates that 50 percent of truck drivers have to be tested for drugs every year and 10 percent for alcohol. A computer program randomly picks the names and he sends notices to their employers. For independent owner-operators, he sends the notice to their homes. "I've never had an owner-operator test positive," he said. "Why would they take a chance? They won't even eat a poppy seed bagel." Any drivers that do test positive are required to go to the Humboldt Family Service Center, which contracts with the DOT to provide assessment services."The truck driver who has a 'dirty' has to come see me," said Nedelcoff. "My job is to do an overall assessment, and look at the resources. Under the DOT I have to refer them to something, even if it's a couple of 12-step meetings. Most of the time those that I have seen have failed for marijuana, and some for meth."Those are the two drugs that seem to cause most of the problems in Humboldt County workplaces. "Marijuana stays in the system about 30 days when you're smoking it quite a bit," said Staton. "There's also quite a bit of amphetamines around."One striking example of drug-related workplace disasters may in part explain why drug screening and random testing are more commonplace these days. In 1987, in Chase, Md., a Conrail engineer admitted smoking marijuana just before his train was involved in a collision with an Amtrak train which resulted in 16 deaths and scores of injuries.Staton said some local companies tell him that about one in four applicants fail their drug screens. Other companies, Simpson included, have improved that ratio in recent years."We're probably down to one out of 10," said Robertson. "About five to 10 years ago it was about one in four." He credits the company's focus on safety as one reason for the improvement. Accidents are way down, as well."You just don't have people coming to work loaded, or going off on break and grabbing a quick one anymore," he said.When test results come back positive, they list street drugs, over-the-counter medicines and prescription drugs. That's one reason labs ask applicants if they take any prescriptions."Especially painkillers, because many of them are opiates," Staton said. "Some over-the-counter drugs show up as amphetamines."Labs also test for chemicals contained in products that supposedly eliminate drugs from the system."When you go to the health food store and buy that stuff, take a good look at the label," said Staton. "Many say 'Mix with one gallon of water and drink.' You might as well just drink the water."A specific gravity test tells the lab if the applicant has recently drunk copious amounts of water. It's called a "dilute sample," and Staton said most companies treat them as positives.The end result Sometimes no matter how hard you try, someone just doesn't want to be helped. Then what? Employers must be extremely careful where they tread. Substance abusers have some protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Alcoholics are specifically named as disabled by the ADA, but those engaged in "current use of illegal drugs" are not, until they successfully complete a treatment program.Protections for employers mainly stem from consistent application of workplace policies, and common sense should prevail. In San Diego County, a sheriff's deputy was fired for having one beer at lunch. He filed a complaint and was later reinstated because there is no law against having a beer on your lunch hour. His employer could not show that he was "under the influence" at work.Aside from applying company policies consistently, focusing on job performance is the best strategy. If performance has suffered, it's been documented and they've been warned, then you're probably covered if you have to terminate them.When performance suffers enough so that it costs someone their job, that may be when they realize they've "hit bottom.""Some addicts have told me that losing their job convinced them to get help," Goldsby said.Some say that addiction is like an elevator going down. You can get off at any floor, or you can take it all the way to the basement. Even at that level, there may still be a chance for help.Complete Title: Working Under The Influence: Drugs and Alcohol in The Workplace Source: Times-Standard (CA)Author: Jennifer Morey, The Times-Standard Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc.Contact: editor times-standard.comWebsite: Article:Snip, Snip, Snip Could Be Final Test Before Hiring Drug Testing Archives
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Comment #14 posted by malleus2 on January 27, 2003 at 12:43:40 PT
I'd like to tell you a story
Years ago I was an office worker forced to work with someone who had a severe psychological problem. A problem being 'handled' by antipsychotics. A problem which my supervisors had not told me about. She missed her dosage one morning and 'went off'; she physically attacked me for no reason I could figure, as I hadn't said more than the obligatory niceties that anyone says, and had thought we managed to get along. There had been no warning signs other than a certain slowness that I attributed to simply being exhausted from the work load and a second job. It was only after they medically retired her that I learned I had been sitting next to a ticking time bomb for months. My supervisor didn't even have the good graces to apologize for risking our lives putting a known loon on antipsychotics in our office; they figured so long as she took her pills, it wasn't a problem.I'd rather have an office worker slightly buzzed and happy from toking on some good weed sitting next to me than a murderously violent nutcase on questionably effective antipsychotics.The legal pills didn't work, yet they *are* legal. Weed works and isn't legal. I've *never* seen an act of violence committed by a toker, but seen plenty of fistfights in bars. What a country... 
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Comment #13 posted by i420 on January 27, 2003 at 04:17:34 PT
130 % rate yeeeeas
 "The addiction makes them less efficient, less productive, making more mistakes and not caring about quality or quantity," he said. "And a surprising number of addicts use during work hours. But, typically, with late-stage addiction, work becomes less and less important as the drug becomes more and more important. I saw a baseball cap at a liquor store with the slogan, 'Work: The curse of the drinking class.' That sums it up."Absenteeism is the most obvious problem in the workplace caused by substance abuse. A typical pattern includes people who call in sick often on Monday mornings, or people who miss work around payday. 
 What is the true cause of absenteeism....???? FOOTBALL NOT DOPE how many ppl showed up for work after Super "Bowl" Sunday??This guy doesn't know jack when it comes to absenteeism blame it on the real cause attendance policies!!! If you allow me 8 days off a year I AM TAKING THEM OFF. We deserve rewarded for better rates and quality thanks to that lunch-time joint... ask any of my ol bosses they will tell u the same.
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Comment #12 posted by p4me on January 26, 2003 at 20:43:04 PT
Welcome to the choir Alvin
I like the way you sing. I too have an in your face attitude to all the lies and stupidity. We are going in the wrong direction and someone has to say Whoa!I agree it is very important to write these newspapers and tell them they are creating a world of make-believe with their lies. I wrote a couple last weekand about the time the Christian Science Monitor spouts more crap I think I will really get off on them.My local newspaper had a phone bank and ask about where I got my news. Every question was answered with Internet and I told the guy I may never buy a newspaper again. We have a chance to influence many people in our daily encounters. people need to learn to lie in weight and insert a message of reform. The next time the Kidney Foundation calls I am going to tell them my cause is to whoa! the drug wars. I am lying in wait.Those were two good LTEs, Alvin. I like the way you sing. 
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Comment #11 posted by AlvinCool on January 26, 2003 at 20:19:40 PT
Letter to an Editor story url posted below
You are right about one thing, you have certainly had your head buried. First let me assure you the correct thing to do with DARE is to destroy it as soon as possible. It's the worst piece of trash you can possibly imagine, having your head buried you couldn't have known this. It educates kids alright, it makes them curious at younger and younger ages. It's not some guy standing at the fence in your schoolyard selling drugs to school saying "psst, hey kids want to buy some drugs". It's the DARE program and the fact that we don't even try to regulate drugs in our society. Hence they trickle down the school system at alarming rates. Any kid can get illegal drugs easier than cigarettes.As for drugs the market wouldn't exist but for the marijuana black market. Imagine marijuana being compared to gasoline. You stop at a quickmart, most often, to buy gas. Then you buy impulse items. The Canadians know this is how the drug market works and this is why their senate wants legalization. This is why they wanted the age limit low. They know, from their studies, that marijuana shouldn't be used by young adults but they also know that the effects are completely reversible. Meth, heroin and cocaine use is much more permanent and can lead to addiction. Our NIDA studies, on the other hand, are funded to only bring negative results. The truth will set us free, not negative lies that hide the truth. Marijuana isn't harmless but it's hardly what our government makes it out to be. We forget that God commanded us not to lie, as we forget that the truth will set us free.The truth is that we either used so much marijuana during our evolution that we have a receptor in every cell of our body, or God put the receptors there for us to use.
Drug Abusers Not Welcome Here
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Comment #10 posted by Whirrlin on January 26, 2003 at 18:04:52 PT:
Sounds Good, But?
This article actually goes into saying certain companies have started having counseling programs etc., which is good. However they make it all sound so easy, and compassionate. If you are idtenified by an employer as having a substance abuse problem, they don't just say go to our counseling program and everything will be fine. Instead from that point on, their is a certain prejudice by the employer, you are looked at differently and you overlooked for promotions etc, even if you have kept the quality of your work up, and successfully completed an abouse program. From that point on you are labeled as a drug addict. Also there is no accepted leave of absence, allowed, to deal with a addiction problem, its either get over it, or your out. Sure they may refer you to a substance abuse counselor but, your still expected to be at work everyday no expectations allowed and they still are piling the work on, still stressing you out everyday, which could have had a hand in leading to the abuse problem in the first place. There is no expected break, to regroup, rethink, to get it together. No sympathy. For companies that don't have their own addiction programs, they have all the compassion in the world for you, but then they give a number for a counselor, a pat on the back for good luck, and leave you jobless. Most of the time this is the case. Some, compassion, why don't you just hit me in the head while your at it.
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Comment #9 posted by westnyc on January 26, 2003 at 17:45:14 PT
sick sick sick of it all
I work in a profession under the DOT; and, I am sick, sick, sick of the character and physical assasination of decent, honest, hardworking people so that some SOB can make a huge profit in the piss industry. I have seen so many wonderful people and their families destroyed because of a positive result for cannabis. As someone stated so eloquently when speaking of cannabis prohibition; it has taught us of the overwhelming corruption at every level of the US government. I can now say that; I love my country and my people; but, I hate my government. Some will say that this makes me a traitor; but, the traitors are our Supreme Court and politicians that accept a salary in tax-payer dollars and then sell our constitutional rights. I am so disillusioned that I can hardly stand it anymore. I am so sick, sick, sick of the lies. I am tired of seeing those who ate their cake stop us from having ours. When will the American people take a stand against the traitors in Washington. If I could; and, I wish that I could; I would be done and gone from this country - to somewhere where they still believe in freedom as a reality and not the illusion of freedom. Our founding fathers are so ------- sore from rolling-over in their graves.
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Comment #8 posted by The GCW on January 26, 2003 at 14:16:57 PT
Arizona Republic? They killed an unarmed man.
All sides angry after dad on meth is gunned downJan. 26, 2003 12:00 AMJulian Navarro Jr., a 20-year-old Peoria man, was shot dead by a police sniper in a case that continues to rock the city.There is outcry, not only by Navarro's family, but by two police officers who were disciplined in the aftermath of the Nov. 20, 2001, shooting.Karen Carrillo and Julian Navarro Sr. are suing Peoria in the death of their son, a self-employed landscaper. The lawsuit, filed in July, followed a $55 million claim.Through the family's attorney, Carrillo described her son as a "bright light in the family," and a junior deacon in their church.The younger Navarro Jr. was shot after issuing what police interpreted as a threat to his child, with whom he was barricaded at a Peoria home. Police were responding to a domestic disturbance call.Julian Jr., who later tested positive for use of methamphetamine, came into the front yard empty-handed but was shot when he tried to go back inside, where he had a loaded shotgun, police said.His parents insist he never would have harmed the child and would have surrendered peacefully. Police maintain they had to shoot him because he posed an immediate threat to the child.Officer Norman Brice, 38, the shooter, was suspended for 30 days Aug. 13 by Police Chief David Leonardo and demoted to a civilian position. Lt. Mark Shepard, 39, was fired for failing to take control of the standoff. Both are appealing their discipline.- Brent Whiting evil police are out of control.They literally killed an unarmed man.The 2nd link includes a photo of the man and He was young. This is wrong!
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on January 26, 2003 at 11:09:37 PT
Thank you for posting what you sent the Arizona Republic. I agree that letter writing is a very important tool to help bring change. I hope all those who have the ability and desire do write.
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Comment #6 posted by AlvinCool on January 26, 2003 at 10:39:49 PT
Letter to the Arizona Republic
The well has been poisoned. NIDA, since it staunchly refuses to admit that cannabis has medicinal uses, has poisoned the well of knowledge concerning cannabis. You think that some glitzy simulation is going to make students think the government isn't lying? At this point the government could actually tell the truth and people will just say they are lying. Crying wolf for over 60 years means nobody is listening, or will ever listen, to the government on the issue of cannabis prohibition.You look at the cancer statistics in the US and imagine that a large percentage of them used cannabis during their treatment. You think they didn't tell anyone? You think the people they told don't know for a fact the government is lying? Run this type of article until newspapers are history and it won't make one degree of difference. Run the truth and it will make a world of difference. Recently Germany and France were called "old Europe". I don't agree with them but the statement was made. However it's becoming clear that most newspapers are indeed "old news".
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on January 26, 2003 at 09:57:14 PT
Just Another Comment
I didn't want anyone to think that I believe speed should be used by anyone operating heavy equipment or planes. It's the double standard that I mind. I remember a lady who was a cashier at a truck stop told me one time. She said she had a driver come up to pay his bill and he looked really wired and he asked her what state was he in and she said Ohio. She said to me to get here it is at least 100 miles from an ajoining state and she thought did he have a blackout or what. She said it really scared her.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on January 26, 2003 at 09:48:45 PT
I know what you mean. Last night on WorldLink TV we watched a program about Iraq and Peter Coyote was the host. What a great program it was. I looked on Time Warner Cable to see if WorldLink TV was on their program guide and I didn't see it. If you want to see news other then what we watch I guess a person needs a satellite. Watching that program last night was the first news I've seen that I felt was honest.War what's it good for? Absolutely nothing.
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Comment #3 posted by AlvinCool on January 26, 2003 at 09:37:23 PT
Come now
Really FoM!In war you want to kill people and they already have a certain quota of friendly kills in their number charts. You see it's built in the plan.However truck drivers aren't supposed to become delusional and run over people walking on the side of the road.Hence it's ok to be delusional in war. Wait the police are at war with the US population. What does that mean. I mean soon they will be dressing up in black uniforms, storming houses and point guns at childrens heads. Hmnn... sounds weird but I'm sure that will never start happening. God help us when they decide swat teams need go pills.Then again I bet the swat plan has a certain amount of friendlies built in.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on January 26, 2003 at 09:12:11 PT
A Question
Why can't a truck driver take ' Go Pills - Speed ' if they give them to pilots for mental clarity in the service? Another double standard.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 26, 2003 at 09:09:51 PT
Just a Comment
Drug testing has been a part of my husband's employment since 93. I feel sorry for young people just entering the work force. I'm not sure but I think many people have never had to drug test but those days seem almost gone. 
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