Last updated: September 25, 2023
The number of people suffering from addiction, also known as substance use disorder, stretches across all facets of the population. And, as you can expect, drug abuse affects all aspects of their lives. That, in turn, reaches into the lives of others. Drugs in the workplace cause an increased risk of accidents and that, of course, puts everyone working with or near the user at increased risk too. In an effort to keep that from happening, lots of employers have a drug-free protocol in place which includes various types of employee drug testing.
It hasn’t alleviated the problem though by any means. In fact, as addiction continues to rage out of control, the percentage of positive drug tests continues to rise from year to year. The number of deaths due to drug overdose keeps going up too.
According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey directed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 46 million Americans struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Many of that number actually struggle with multiple addictions. Even more mind-boggling, though, is the fact that 60% of those people—over the age of 12—a horrifying starting point, but that’s another post—are employed.
Keeping things in perspective
Because drug use affects all areas of the population, pointing fingers at professions where the numbers of employees testing positive for drug use are the highest isn’t the intent of this article. People turn to drugs for essentially the same reasons some of which include:
- A right of passage—drug use is touted as a “normal” realm for teens and young adults to explore
- To bolster self-esteem—people often use drugs when feeling uncomfortable in social situations
- Taking the edge off—when stress levels run high, using drugs or alcohol becomes a tool to “unwind”
The problem with turning to drugs or alcohol for any reason is the threat of becoming addicted to the substance. No one thinks of that risk though. Young people, especially, are known for believing they’re invincible. Even worse, perhaps, is the fact that many people are able to function “normally” while experiencing the effects of their drug of choice. Or, there are some who refrain from using until the end of the day. That still carries risk to others though because many drugs keep people from sleeping. Then, there are others, of which alcohol is included, which can leave the user feeling pretty rough the next day.
Neither bodes well for functioning at one’s best during a full day’s work, though, do they?
Certain industries prone to drug abuse
The top 5 listed were:
- Accommodations and food service 16.9%
- Construction 14.3%
- Arts, entertainment & recreation 12.9%
- Mining 11.8%
- Utilities 11.5%
Doctors and health care professionals made the list as well with an estimated ten to fourteen percent suffering from a substance use disorder.
Of course, accidents can happen at any workplace, however, some sites are more dangerous as a rule. When considering dangerous occupations, the construction industry springs to mind. Someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol on site is in danger of being involved in a serious accident. And, as mentioned above, anyone working in the vicinity could be at risk too. Moreover, poor workmanship could cause a fatal flaw in the structural integrity that may not come to light until years down the road.
How many is too many though?
The numbers may decrease as the industry list continues. However, when it comes to living life with a substance use disorder—an addiction—even one person is too many. Living life—one that continues to spiral out of control—enslaved to drugs or alcohol is no way to live productively. In fact, the reverse happens as family dynamics are destroyed, friendships are torn apart, and, more often than not, eventual financial ruin plays out as reality.
Employers who operate a drug-free workplace are declaring where they stand. In order to keep their employees as safe as possible, drug use won’t be tolerated. Pre-employment drug testing actually works as a deterrent because many people who abuse drugs won’t even bother to apply.
Incorporating a random drug testing policy can work to your advantage even more. However, we will note here that it’s important to check out the drug testing laws within your state before writing your drug-free policies and procedures.
Not only will your work environment become safer for your employees, but you’ll also receive added benefits, such as experiencing lower rates of absenteeism and an increase in productivity. You may find that beginning a drug-free program has a positive influence on your work culture too. That’s because employees will know for sure that you actually care about their well-being. That increases their sense of satisfaction and, ultimately, that can mean that your employees will stay with you for the long haul.