Blog | Addiction Warning Signs

Drug Testing for Judges: Should It be Mandatory?

You have likely had to take a drug test at some point in your life. You may have had to take one before getting hired. You may have been randomly screened once or several times after beginning work. Many jobs require drug testing. One job that doesn’t is that of judge. The question is, should it?

Why Do Jobs Test for Drug Use?

Judges may not have to submit to drug tests, but a lot of us do. According to The Atlantic[1], “The best estimate is that about 40 percent of U.S. workers are currently subjected to drug tests during the hiring process.” Individuals who don’t get tested before hiring may still face random drug screens after. There are several reasons employers are eager to test for drug use.

Judge delivering verdict

Safety concerns are some of the top reasons for on-the-job drug testing. U.S. News[2] shares, “Drug use, in general, is tricky for employers because it is difficult to know how long the effects may linger. Given the uncertainty, it is easier for employers to start with a drug test so that they may avoid any unnecessary risks brought about by habitual users of any drugs.” If someone drives a vehicle or operates equipment as part of their job, drug use can create serious risks. Alcohol, marijuana, painkillers and other substances seriously impact judgment and reaction time. Testing can increase safety.

Drug testing may also improve job performance. When you are using drugs, you are distracted at best. You are more likely to make errors, to create slack your coworkers have to cover, and to be absent from work for health or personal reasons.

Drug testing does more than create a safer, more productive work environment. It creates the promise of this environment.

The Society for Human Resource Management[3] (SHRM) explains, “Drug testing may even improve employee morale by demonstrating an employer’s commitment to providing a safe work environment and by keeping workers out of the awkward position of having to cover for drunk or high colleague.”

Workplaces with pre-employment screenings or random testing do not have to actually be safer or better to feel that way. Morale goes a long way toward creating healthy, happy employees. Even if drug testing doesn’t impact employee health and performance directly, it can indirectly create a better place to work.

Drug testing creates opportunities for healing. Losing your job because of drug use can be the wake-up call you need. It can cause you to take a closer look at your relationship with drugs and to consider treatment. It opens the door for conversations with loved ones, doctors, and treatment providers about options and next steps for recovery. If you job has employee assistance programs in place, you may be able to get help without even having to lose your job. Let a failed drug test or concerns about future testing provide incentive for recovery, a healthier life, and better future career prospects.

Why Don’t Judge Have to Take Drug Tests?

Workplaces and employees may benefit from drug testing. Employees are happier, and given opportunities to heal. Employers benefit from greater productivity and fewer accidents. State governments recognize that drug testing can be a good thing.

The SHRM explains, “A handful of states give employers a financial incentive by discounting workers’ compensation premiums when they test employees for drug use.”

More and more employers use testing during and after the hiring process. Despite the popularity of this practice and government recognition of its benefits, state officials and judges are exempt from testing. If drug testing is such a good thing, why is this the case?

As the American Bar Association[4] (ABA) shares, “Judges who use illegal drugs cannot provide the state and its citizens with fair and impartial trials.”

Judges do not operate machinery as part of their jobs. However they are required to be mentally focused and present. Drug use disrupts anyone’s ability to aware and make good decisions.

As the National Institute on Drug Abuse[5] shares, long-term drug use changes the brain. It directly affects a person’s:
  • Learning
  • Judgment
  • Decision-making
  • Stress
  • Memory
  • Behavior

We all need to be able to learn, make good decisions, manage stress, and act appropriately. This is as important for judges as anyone else. A judge’s words and actions directly impact the lives of others. Drug use by state officials can have even further-reaching effects than drug use by other individuals. Judges need to take responsibility and hold themselves accountable. Addiction can affect any person in any job, and when it does, treatment becomes an urgent personal and public health matter. Drug use calls for understanding and action. Reach out to Michael’s House. Learn how to help yourself or a loved pursue a healthy life and long, successful career.


[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/06/drug-testing-effectiveness/394850/. “The Pointlessness of the Workplace Drug Test.” The Atlantic. 4 Jun 2015. Web. 20 Apr 2017.

[2] http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/articles/2017-01-17/how-to-handle-pre-employment-drug-testing-where-marijuana-is-legal. “How to Handle Pre-Employment Drug Testing Where Marijuana is Legal.” U.S. News. 17 Jan 2017. Web. 20 Apr 2017.

[3] https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/Pages/1110zeidner.aspx. “Putting Drug Screening to the Test.” The Society for Human Resource Management. 1 Nov 2010. Web. 20 Apr 2017.

[4] http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/state_legislators_propose_mandatory_drug_testing_of_judges_and_other_state/. “State Legislators Propose Mandatory Drug Testing of Judges and Other State Officials.” American Bar Association. 1 Mar 2012. Web. 20 Apr 2017.

[5] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction. “Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Aug 2016. Web. 20 Apr 2017.