Drugs in Workplace Cost Companies Over $US100 Billions: Drug Testing– Pee-in-Cup– It’s a Legal Mine Field…

Drugs in workplace is $US100 billion problem and that does not include– all the pain, suffering, and human tragedy… According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 8.4% of full-time workers use illicit drugs and 8.8% admit heavy alcohol use…

According to U.S. Department of Labor; workers who abuse substances are 25 to 30% less productive and miss work three times more often than their non-abusing workers… There’s no way around it; work is stressful, life is stressful… Many people go through points where their work is so taxing it feels as if it’s life consuming, and for some it can end-up with excessive drug abuse…

According to Working Partners’ Report; the costs of drugs in the workplace are mainly connected with: Workers Compensation; 38% to 50% of all Workers Compensation claims are related to substance abuse in the workplace, as substance abusers file three to five times as many Workers Compensation claims…

Medical Costs: Substance abusers incur 300% higher medical costs than non-abusers…

Absenteeism: Substance abusers are 2.5 times more likely to be absent eight or more days per year…

Productivity:  Substance abusers are 1/3 less productive…

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Furthermore, studies have found the impact of worker substance use and abuse is an issue that extends beyond just the worker who uses drugs/substance (i.e., second-hand smoke effect)– there is evidence that their co-worker’s job performance and attitudes are also negatively affected.

According to U.S. Census Bureau; small business are more vulnerable and particularly disadvantaged by workers substance use and abuse… Roughly half of all U.S. workers are employed at small/medium businesses (i.e., fewer than 500 workers), and according to ‘Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies, Programs’ Report; about nine-in-ten full-time workers that have– alcohol, or illicit drug dependence, or abuse… work for small/medium size firms…

Workers have reported being put in– danger, or injured, or work harder to re-do work, or cover for co-worker as a result of drug use… A study from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; revealed following information about substance use and abuse among U.S. workers: Of 17.4 million illicit drug users age 18 and over, 13.1 million (75.3%) were employed… Of 55.3 million adult binge drinkers, 44.0 million (79.4%) were employed… Of 16.4 million heavy alcohol users, 13.1 million (79.6%) were employed… Of the 20.4 million adults classified with substance dependence or abuse, 12.3 million (60.4%) were employed full-time…

In the article Substance Abuse in the Workplace by Buddy T writes: Alcohol and drug abuse by employees cause many expensive problems for business ranging from lost productivity, injuries, increase the health insurance claims… Research has shown that the culture of the workplace can play a large roll into whether drinking and drug use is accepted and encouraged, or discouraged and inhibited… Part of this culture can depend on gender mix of employees…

In predominantly female occupations, research shows that both male and female employees are less likely to have substance abuse problems compared to employees of both genders in male-dominated occupations… Research shows that the type of work, itself, can contribute to higher rates of employee substance abuse, e.g.; work that is boring, stressful, isolating… also, lack of control over work conditions, verbal and physical aggression, disrespectful behavior… can all contribute to workers’ drinking…

Remarkably, research shows it’s the social drinkers– not the hard-core alcoholics or problem drinkers– that were more abusers in workplace… This study also found that it was managers, not hourly workers, who were most often drinking during the workday; 23% of upper managers and 11% of first-line supervisors reported having a drink during workday, compared with only 8% of hourly workers… Researchers also found that 21% of workers said their productivity had been affected because of a co-worker’s drinking…

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In the article Workplace Drug Testing–Pros and Cons by healthonline writes: A company survey of workers identified several increasing attitudes towards drug testing, e.g.; pre-employment testing, testing for cause, testing after accident… are all generally acceptable to most workers… However, many workers felt that random testing is not at all acceptable and unnecessary violation of privacy. There are valid arguments, both; ‘pro’ and ‘con’ drug testing in work place, e.g.: ‘Pro’ arguments suggest drug testing to increase the safety of workers, and general public should be encouraged, e.g.; transportation– pilots, truck drivers… medical– doctors, care givers… public safety– police, fire fighters…

Whereas, ‘Con’ arguments suggest that drug testing are not reliable  tool for assessing worker’s impairment, e.g.; if a worker smoked marijuana on Friday night, evidence of this would still appear in urine on Monday morning… but the worker’s impairment, on same Monday morning, would have minimal (if any) effect on work performance… Although the most common cause of workplace impairment is ‘alcohol’, but using the ‘pee test’ (urine) to determine an impairment is not particularly accurate… Also, drug testing misses other factors that can also affect work performance, e.g.; lack of sleep, fatigue, stress, family problems, mental disease… can all create work impairment difficulties…

However, valid arguments exist ‘for and against’ drug testing, e.g.; pre-employment testing, or testing for cause, or testing after an accident… are generally acceptable to most workers in safety-sensitive positions… However, drug testing is often seen as an unnecessary violation of privacy. Drug testing does not necessarily measure impairment in the workplace, and it’s expensive and subject to both legal and worker’s rights concerns… However, business management is increasingly recognizing the negative consequences of drug and substance abuse on– productivity and sustainability of their business… and on the overall economy and well-being of the nation’s workforce… not to mentioned the critical health issues of the unfortunate abusers…

There are a number of reports and surveys that highlight the detrimental effects of drugs/ substance abuse in workplaces, e.g.; productivity and safety– increase risk of accidents, absenteeism, reduced work engagement… The majority of employers in the U. S. are ‘not’ required to drug test, and many state and local governments have statutes that limit or prohibit workplace testing, unless required by state or Federal regulations for certain jobs… Also, drug testing is ‘not’ required under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988. On other hand, most private employers have the ‘right’ to test for a wide variety of substances…

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Hence, when employers decide to implement some type of drug testing (i.e.; presumably for valid workplace reasons); it’s very important that the employer fully understand all state and Federal drug-testing issues and regulations that apply to their organization… Also, it’s  important to consider the drug testing process itself, e.g.; purpose of test; type of test; how sample is collected; how to use the information collected; security of samples…But most important, when employer uncovers a drug/substance issue in their workplace; employer should take action, immediately; do not ignore the signs…

Often when these issues exists– it can be an indicator of a much more serious problem that exist within workplace, itself… Hence, first try to uncover the root cause, e.g.; is it a toxic workplace that is the cause of drug usage, or is it a worker’s personal issue?

Employers must be prepared to completely review conditions in their workplace environment… also, employers must a policy that is fair to workers with drug issues. The worst thing employers can do: Ignore the problem and do nothing…