Substance abuse in the workplace compromises everyone’s safety and costs United States businesses approximately $276 billion per year.
With more than 75 percent of substance abusers working full-time, preventing drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace has become more critical than ever before. The roster of substances favored for abuse fluctuates periodically. Whatever the drug, abuse by employees can be responsible for 50 percent of on-the-job accidents along with other fluctuating statistics.
- Abuse results in an increase in workman’s compensation claims and higher healthcare costs.
- Drug and alcohol abusers are frequently absent.
- Addiction is a major cause of employee theft.
- Substance abusers can decrease company productivity by up to 30 percent.
Alcohol is an ever-present problem for U.S. employers. Studies indicate that, as of 2014, as many as 15 million full-time employees were classified as heavy drinkers. Fourteen million workdays were lost to alcohol abuse, and alcohol abusers are 2.7 times more likely to take sick days due to injuries. Finally, 11 percent of workers involved in fatal on-the-job accidents had been drinking at the time.
While managers and supervisors can watch for signs of alcohol abuse—neglecting duties, assignments, and responsibilities; poor performance; alcohol on the breath—drug testing is the only sure (and compliant) way to determine whether the employee in question has a problem.
Pot tops the list of illegal drugs found in the workplace. This is of greater concern than ever, because today’s marijuana is up to four times more potent than weed was just ten years ago. Chronic use can result in decreased productivity and increased absenteeism, as well as inattentiveness that can lead to accidents and injuries.
Several states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and still more have legalized it for medical use, but pot remains an illegal, Schedule 1 drug in the eyes of the federal government. Employers have the right to test for it and take action based on results, regardless of state law or whether the worker in question takes the drug for medical or recreational reasons.
Like real weed, synthetic marijuana targets the brain’s relax-and-feel-good cannabinoid receptors, but these designer drugs promise a quicker high using less product. Unfortunately, no one can be exactly sure what that product is, only that it’s some form of plant matter sprayed with or dipped in man-made, mood-altering chemicals.
While the makeup of synthetic marijuana is questionable, its dangers are clear. The drug may impede employee performance much like natural marijuana; it may, on the other hand, render an employee severely paranoid or anxious. Synthetic marijuana can, and has, caused strokes, heart attacks, seizures, violent behavior, even brain damage.
No matter what you call them—uppers, ice, crank, meth, or crystal—methamphetamines are bad news for U.S. employers, and their use is skyrocketing, especially among the 24- to 35-year-olds who make up much of the country’s workforce. Far from being a Hollywood “party drug,” meth is most popular on construction sites and in manufacturing. It’s frequently used by truckers, athletes, white-collar employees, and mine workers.
While the initial high can keep an employee alert, euphoric, and going strong for up to 14 hours, the drug’s flip side is anything but helpful. Meth addicts commonly display erratic, often violent behavior. They’re prone to accidents and frequently take sick days. This is especially bad news when you consider the fact there has been a 68 percent increase in employee meth use.
Stimulants, opioids, and depressants prescribed by doctors don’t make them any less dangerous or addictive. Overuse or misuse prescription affect about 8.8 million Americans and the numbers may be growing.
One of the primary problems is ease of access. Employees may have the prescription themselves or access from a family member. No one would think twice with a co-worker opening an aspirin bottle, so using can be done even at work without drawing too much attention. Unfortunately, the effects are much stronger than curing an ache or pain. An employee using a prescription drug improperly can fail to exercise good judgement, make poor decisions, and operate equipment which might place people in danger. Since legitimate medication is protected (except in some DOT instances) it can be hard for employers to prevent them without proper testing procedures in place.
These are only a few of the drugs most often found in the workplace. Their pervasiveness—along with the increasing incidence of prescription drug abuse, heroin addiction, and other substance abuse problems—makes drug testing a sound decision for any business.
A comprehensive, well-planned screening program—such as those designed and implemented by mobile drug-testing providers—is a convenient, proven way to protect both a company and its employees.