Thou shalt not take drugs at work

Drug-testing at work is a sensitive issue; but according to one Israeli academic, you can't trust anyone...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Benny Shanon, a psychology professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has claimed that Old Testament figure Moses was high on hallucinogenic drugs when he was supposedly given the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Shanon thinks that Moses was completely out of his tree – specifically, the acacia tree, which is mentioned regularly in the Bible and apparently contains one of the most psychedelic substances on earth.

Shanon’s theory is that a few hits of this stuff results in a ‘radical alteration in the state of consciousness’ – so burning bushes, profound spiritual feelings and people transforming into serpents would be pretty much par for the course. In other words, it’s much more likely that Moses was tripping the light fantastic thanks to mind-altering drugs, rather than hearing the word of God. And the same goes for the credulous gang of Israelites at the bottom of the hill when he brought down the tablets (no, not those kind of tablets).

But how does Professor Shanon know this exactly, we hear you ask? Well, apparently he freely admits to experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs ‘about 160 times in various locales’. Curiously, he seems to think this actually strengthens his argument, as opposed to discrediting him as a blatant quack.

Technically of course we’ll never know for sure, due to the lamentable absence of random drug testing during Biblical times. But the modern workplace has no such excuse. Next time one of your team starts acting suspiciously out of character (whether that means coming up with an innovative product idea or hearing the word of God by revelation), you might want to think about drug screening.

Some companies have already done so – notably construction group Laing O’Rourke, who introduced random testing in 2005 as a way to clean up its workforce (and the industry’s reputation). In the first year, 10% of those screened tested positive for drugs, and were promptly sacked.

Naturally civil liberties campaigners were not impressed, pointing out (not unreasonably) that one's employer is not the police and that what we do in our free time is nobody’s concern but our own. Others argue that it’s pointless, since the standard drug tests will only identify a small range of substances (not including alcohol, usually). And it might even be the case that your contracts don’t allow you to sack people under the influence of drugs at work.

There is another alternative, of course. Given the success Moses seems to have had with the Ten Commandments, perhaps you should donate a free acacia tree to all your staff?

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