Last updated: October 19, 2020
Drug abuse is one of the most dangerous problems facing the nation today. It a serious drain on national resources, and is estimated to cost the nation $193 billion annually—an incredible figure which is higher than the national GDP of 141 countries combined! Shockingly, the figure doesn’t even include social cost and indirect health care costs.
Considering that 75% of adult drug abusers are employed, either full or part-time, it should come as no surprised that drug abuse cost businesses $81 billion annually. To put the figure into perspective, the much-derided food stamp program (SNAP), will cost the nation $52.9 billion for 42.3 million Americans in 2017. With the rampant rate of drug abuse in Georgia, it is imperative for Atlanta’s employers to establish comprehensive drug testing policies to combat the threat of illicit drug use.
So how can drug testing build a safer and more productive workforce in Atlanta’s workplaces?
Reducing workplace injuries and workers’ compensation claims
It’s no secret that drug use can affect motor coordination, focus, cognitive skills, reaction time and judgement. Prescription opioids can cause drowsiness, while marijuana can even influence short and long-term memory. These factors can lead to physical and mental impairments which directly contribute to workplace accidents and injuries. Accidents in the workplace not only cause loss of manhours and increases in healthcare costs and compensation claims, they also disrupt productivity and schedule.
In a report (Strategic Planning for Workplace Drug Abuse Programs), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that workplace accidents are 3.6 times more likely to involve drug abusers. The same report also states that drug abusers file compensation claims five times more frequently compared to their peers, meaning the former are potentially far more costly to an employer.
Implementation of a workplace drug testing program is an employer’s best tool in combating this problem. A study by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations showed that companies which implemented workplace drug testing programs experienced a phenomenal 51% reduction in workplace incident rates within two years. Workers’ compensation claim also showed a sharp 11.4% reduction over the corresponding period. This clearly demonstrates that drug testing is a powerful deterrent against illicit consumption.
Reducing absenteeism and sick days
Drugs abuse and addiction is capable harming the body in many—potentially hundreds of ways. It weakens the immune system, which causes the body to be more susceptible to infections; it affects cardiovascular activities, which causes the undue stress and wear and tear to the heart, veins and blood vessels; it overloads the liver, which loses efficiency over time—there are just too many ways drugs can damage our body.
Suffice to say that the body of drug abusers and addicts are weaker than average. Naturally, this will lead to more sick days and truancy. According to a study by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), high absenteeism affects 9% of companies. NIDA’s findings support the figure. The agency claims that drug abusers are three times as likely to come in late to work, twice as likely to request leave, and 2.5 more likely than their counterparts to be absent from work for more than eight days.
However, the good news is, workplace drug testing can work wonders to tackle the problem. DATIA’s study indicates a 56% reduction in high absenteeism rate following the implementation of a drug testing program. The deterrent effect strikes again!
Improving workplace morale and productivity
Workplaces which are dominated by drug abusers suffer reduced productivity due to the effect drugs have on a person’s mental and physical capabilities. The slacking off, absenteeism, and chronic tardiness will inevitably affect the rest of the staff. Left on its own, drug use in the workplace will cause a sustained drop in productivity and morale.
In addition, threats of violence in the workplace, as well as theft and pilferage, are significantly higher. 25% of theft in the workplace involves substance abusers, while 35% of workplace violence involves people under the influence of drugs.
Creating a workplace drug policy is a crucial first step towards tackling this hydra-like problem. A disciplined implementation of legal drug testing will gradually reduce the issue, and recalcitrant and problematic employees can be removed with legally valid reasons.
Eventually, this will lead to improved workplace morale and productivity as resentment dissipates and a culture of excellence emerges. A workplace drug policy is designed to stop drug related problems before they occur. At the time of hire employees will be provided with a written policy and the employer must keep employees updated with any changes to the policy in place.