Friday, August 21, 2009

Drug Testing Lowers High Tech Productivity

Commenter demian asked me a question about marijuana and productivity in high tech industry at my post Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol.

Which got me to look up a study done on the subject.

In a study of high tech industries, researchers found that "drug testing programs do not succeed in improving productivity. Surprisingly, companies adopting drug testing programs are found to exhibit lower levels of productivity than their counterparts that do not... Both pre-employment and random testing of workers are found to be associated with lower levels of productivity."

Source: Shepard, Edward M., and Thomas J. Clifton, Drug Testing and Labor Productivity: Estimates Applying a Production Function Model, Institute of Industrial Relations, Research Paper No. 18, Le Moyne University, Syracuse, NY (1998), p. 1.
Isn't that interesting. It might be useful to find out the why of the correlation. Is it because drug users are thankful for a job in a non-testing company and work harder? Or because drug use enhances high tech productivity? I incline to the latter explanation. With a little bit of the former mixed in. I have no proof except anecdotal.

Here is an anecdote.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The late astronomer and author, Carl Sagan was a secret but avid marijuana smoker, crediting it with inspiring essays and scientific insight, according to Sagan's biographer.

Using the pseudonym "Mr. X'', Sagan wrote about his pot smoking in an essay published in the 1971 book "Reconsidering Marijuana.'' The book's editor, Lester Grinspoon, recently disclosed the secret to Sagan's biographer, Keay Davidson.
I'd like to see more studies done. The question is who would fund them? Not the US Government which tends to avoid studies that might throw a positive light on drug use. And the drug testing industry is certainly not going to go for such a study. Why fund something that might knock your product? That doesn't leave many interested parties who have the cash to pay for the work.

Here is a page full of studies on the impact of drug testing. (same as the first link above)

1 comment:

Tom said...

Drug testing shows a basic lack of trust between employer and employees. It makes people mad, and unhappy workers work less hard, and sometimes actively sabotage the company.

Drug testing alone might not have much effect, but it highlights for workers just who they are working for.

I work in a fairly dangerous job using heavy machinery. Serious accidents occasionally happen, but the company does not drug test the employees as a whole except during the hiring phase. If an accident occurs an employee may be tested.

This seems to me to be a good balance.