The Effectiveness of Workplace Drug Prevention Policies: Does 'Zero Tolerance' Work?

Stephen L. Mehay, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula

NBER Working Paper No. 7383
Issued in October 1999
NBER Program(s):Children, Health Economics

Workplace drug testing programs are becoming increasingly more common although there is little research demonstrating that they have any effect on drug use by employees. This paper analyzes the deterrence effect of a particularly aggressive workplace drug- testing policy implemented by the military in 1981. The military's policy incorporates random drug testing of current employees and zero tolerance. Using data from various years of the Department of Defense's Worldwide Survey of Health Related Behaviors and the NHSDA, we find illicit drug prevalence rates among military personnel are significantly lower than civilian rates in years after the implementation of the program but not before, suggesting a sizeable deterrence effect. These basic findings are replicated with data from the NLSY. The NLSY are also used to explore sensitivity of the deterrence effect to the probability of detection and severity of punishment, which varied across military branches during the first few years of the program's implementation.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7383

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