July 6th, 2015


Me and RAND, in agreement at last!

So the RAND Corporation in 2009 published some interesting findings about the link between drug use and workplace accidents. They didn't find sufficient evidence to support a causal link, but (similar to the link between drugs and crime) found that heavy substance-using behaviours and disregard for safety precautions are likely both symptoms of something else, that they call ‘deviance proneness’, and that identifying those characteristics and establishing intervention strategies (such as Employee Assistance Programs) may be more useful than drug-testing in addressing this issue.

Why is this important to me? Well, whenever I think about full legalisation of drugs as a harm reduction measure, I use my ex-husband as a foil to my arguments. Without giving too much away, he's been in minor trouble (including some jail time) with drugs for most of his adult life. I ask myself "If drugs were legal, how would it have affected his life?" Would he have suffered more harm through easier access, or less through less police attention/connection with the criminal underworld?

It's hard to say. What I do know is that he is the type of person who would very likely have found another way to damage his life, because that's the kind of guy he is - I don't think in this case the end result would have been any different, but the road to get there might have been.

After reading the RAND report, I now wonder if in a parallel universe where identifying this type of characteristic and addressing it happened as a matter of course, people like my ex-husband would do any better. I am also heartened to see an organisation like RAND reaching similar conclusions to those I've reached myself.

[edit] Of course this does open the door for a scary thought - the concept of drug testing as a useful means of removing potential dissenters (oh sorry, the 'deviance prone') from the workforce, with the added ability to blame them for their own misfortune. Which fits frighteningly into the the neoconservative rhetoric that is currently dominating our political discourse, and is likely the conclusion my essay will reach as to why drug testing is a burgeoning industry depsite there being little evidence to justify its use.

Worth reading for those interested:
Ramchand, R., Pomeroy, A., & Arkes, J. (2009) The Effects of Substance Use on Workplace Injuries. Santa Monica: RAND.