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Before we examine some
specific examples of the misuse and abuse of statistics commonly resorted to
by the drug warriors it is important to understand how the various studies
and numbers, credible or not, are used by Congress to make the law of the
Junk science and U.S. Government policy
It is particularly dismaying
to find discredited misinformation written, without attribution, into
Congressional legislation. Consider the "Findings" section of the Drug Free
Workplace Act of 1998:
(4) employees who use
and abuse addictive illegal drugs and alcohol increase costs for businesses
and risk the health and safety of all employees because-
(A) absenteeism is
66 percent higher among drug users than individuals who do not use drugs;
(B) health benefit
utilization is 300 percent higher among drug users than individuals who do
not use drugs;
(C) 47 percent of
workplace accidents are drug-related;
actions are 90 percent higher among drug users than among individuals who do
not use drugs; and
turnover is significantly higher among drug users than among individuals who
do not use drugs." (Drug-Free
Workplace Act, 1998)
Let us examine the claims of
drug testing proponents from whence these "Findings" are derived.
Claim: Drug users cost businesses $33 billion each year in lost
The Firestone "Study"
"Statistics" like this are
rarely accompanied by references. When a reference is given to support
claims about accidents and absenteeism and benefits the citation is usually
to "The Firestone Study." The only problem is that the "Firestone Study"
never existed. Quoting from "Drug Testing, A
In 1972, in a luncheon
address to executives of the Firestone Company, an unidentified speaker ...
claimed that workers with 'medical-behavioral problems' ... had 2.5 times
more absences [etc]. No mention was made of how the data had been obtained,
how many workers had been examined, or the nature of the workers' 'medical-behavioral' problems. ... The following year, the Firestone speech
was reproduced in an archival collection of essays where, ten years later,
it was discovered by Sidney Cohen, editor of the widely read 'Drug Abuse and
Alcoholism Newsletter. (Maltby,
Cohen clearly implied that research had been
done and that he had studied the results and was now going to interpret them
for his readers. (Cohen, 1985) . In any event, once Sidney Cohen sanctioned
the Firestone "results" they gained the full backing of his significant
stature and that of his Newsletter. This is how it happens.
Claim: Drug users cause
This claim has been conclusively shown to be false. Hoffman and
Larison's thorough analysis of the 1994 National Household
Survey data reveals no association between drug use, present or past, and
workplace accidents. (Hoffman
and Larison, 1998) Although these results may seem unintuitive, they
agree with other studies on this issue.
Roebuck, and Alexandre, 2001) [emphasis mine]
Claim: Drug users use more
Wrong again. Studies on this question are equivocal at best. A
large study of postal workers published in 1990 found that 64
percent of drug test positives, compared to 48 percent of those testing
negative for drugs, were above the median for medical claims made. But in
another good study, Utah Power and Light workers who tested positive cost
the company less in medical claims then their colleagues who tested negative
for drugs ($1,009.00 vs. $1,438.00) (Normand,
Lempert, and O'Brien, 1994) [emphasis mine]
What we have here
is nothing less that the incorporation of bogus data into a federal law in
order to justify mandatory drug testing for government employees in pursuit
of the impossible 'Drug-Free Workplace.'
Drug-Free Workplace Act (1998). Drug-Free Workplace Act. (Available:
Maltby, L. L (1999). Drug Testing - A Bad Investment.
New York: American Civil Liberties Union, 1-27. (Available:
Cohen, S. (1985). Drugs in the Workplace. In Cohen, S.
(Ed.), The Substance Abuse Problems, Volume Two (pp. 224-228). London:
Hoffman, J. and Larison, C. (1998). Drugs and the
Workplace. Chicago: Nation Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago,
French, M.T., Roebuck, C., and Alexandre, P.K. (2001).
Illicit Drug Use, Employment, and Labor Force Participation. Southern
Economic Journal, 68, 349-368. (Available:
Normand, J., Lempert, R. O., and O'Brien, C. P.
(1994). Under the Influence? Drugs and the American Work Force. Washington,
D.C.: National Academy Press, (Available: