Last updated: June 5, 2023
I know many employers think that their employees don’t use drugs, but that’s unfortunately not true. Of all drug users, 68.9% are employed and active in the workplace, and 9.4% of Americans have used an illegal drug within the past month. So to believe that a workplace has no drug users, is statistically speaking, almost impossible.
All drug users are dangerous because they are proven to be more prone to workplace accidents, especially those involving loss of life. They’re also harmful to the business even if they never cause an accident because they are less productive, call out sick more often, and change jobs more frequently, according to a report conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Here are the five types of drug users we frequently encounter in the workplace when conducting drug testing for our clients here in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
This employee has a drug for everything, and in many cases, truly believes that they are simply trying to optimize performance in the workplace. When they need some extra energy and concentration to finish that big project on time, they’ll pop a few Adderall, then when they can’t get to sleep later that night because of the Adderall, they’ll pop a few Ambien. Of course, then they have a hard time waking up in the morning, so they start the next day with a few more Adderall, and when this cycle inevitably leads to depression or anxiety, they start popping Xanax. This employee is an emotional rollercoaster who will eventually cause massive conflict in the workplace.
“It doesn’t affect me!” this employee tells coworkers, insisting that somehow, the rules of human biochemistry don’t apply to him. In his world, he’s just as sharp after washing a few painkillers down with a tallboy at lunch as any other employee is when they are completely sober. Statistics and scientific evidence, be damned! Now crank up Freebird and hand me the keys to the forklift, we’ve got work to do! This employee is going to get you sued, or worse yet, get someone killed.
The “medicinal” user
Almost every workplace today has at least one employee who is convinced that marijuana cures everything from jock itch to cancer. More often than not, they will preach about the evils of “big pharma” to anyone who will listen, insisting that the medical community knows all about the supposed healing properties of marijuana but have simply remained silent because the were paid off. They’re convinced that they’re just taking “medicine” and they dismiss the plethora of empirical evidence proving that marijuana users are less productive and safe compared to sober employees as “propaganda” from the pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs. Sigh…if only rolling papers came with tin foil hats.
This employee may be the most dangerous because they don’t yet know the effects a drug has on their body, making them more likely to cause a workplace accident that results in damage and hurts themselves and/or others. These are usually the employees who are trying to fit in with coworkers.
The habitual user
As a seasoned drug user, this employee can most likely carry on a normal conversation with you while discretely scanning the warehouse or construction site for lurking dragons without you noticing that they’re a little off. In fact, he’s been “waking and baking” for so long that unless he actually started talking with those imaginary dragons, you’d never notice he was high until he caused an accident prompting a post-accident drug test.
So how do we keep these drug users out of the workplace?
The best way is to never hire them in the first place, and that requires a thorough interview and screening process, which includes checking references, a background check, and pre employment drug testing. But candidates can simply stop taking drugs long enough to get past the initial drug test, or could begin taking them at any time after it, so a random drug testing program is essential because it accomplishes two things:
- It discourages drug users from applying because eventually they will get caught.
- It discourages employees from experimenting with drugs because they will eventually get caught.