drug testing

Did You Know? The History of Drug Testing

It’s summertime and that means for many teens, it’s summer job time. Before clocking in, employers may require your teen to get a drug test.

This informational campaign comes to you in partnership with the Tuscarawas County Anti-Drug Coalition.

While drugs have been around for a long, long time, drug testing has not. When and where it all began is mostly rooted in military history, although Henry Ford played a pretty big role in workplace morality, too.

The Ford Motor Company’s Social Department

You know Henry Ford for his revolution of the assembly line, but he was also a pioneer in workplace morality. Ford formed a department specifically tasked with monitoring his employees’ personal habits. He was mostly concerned with their drinking and gambling. If an employee was found in violation of the workplace guidelines, they would lose eligibility for benefits and advancement.

The Military and Drug Testing

Being a soldier is not and never has been easy. As early as the Civil War there are reports of soldiers using morphine on the battlefield and opium pills to treat the wounded. During the Vietnam War, the epidemic of soldiers using heroin and marijuana to cope with the loss, devastation, and violence of conflict proved to be another challenge for the military, even after the men were home.

In 1981 there was a major accident on the USS Nimitz that killed 14 soldiers, wounded 48, and cause millions of dollars in property damage. Six of those killed tested positive for marijuana. After this tragedy, the Department of Defense cracked down on drug testing and penalties.

Ronald Reagan’s Drug Policy

Influenced by the military and concerned with the drug use epidemic, President Reagan issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to drug test their employees. To support Reagan, Congress passed the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. More bills were passed, more departments began requiring testing, and soon it became the status quo on the federal level.

Through policy and pressure, drug testing has made its way into nearly every industry- including your teenager’s summer job. Next time they complain about heading to the lab to provide a sample, share some knowledge on the history of drugs testing and how it started!

Check out the Anti-Drug Coalition website adctusc.org for advice on how to talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol.

Audrey Mattevi

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