Drug Use in the Workplace Impacts Safety

More job applicants and workers tested positive for drug use this year than lastthe first time in more than a decade there has been a year-to-year increase in positive test results, according to the latest Quest Diagnostics report.

Quest’s report showed some of this national increase was based on results from Colorado and Washington, where new recreational marijuana laws have been passed. But, a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows a broader perception change nationwide, as 60% of 12th graders do not view regular marijuana use as harmful.

Additionally, positivity rates for amphetamines, including methamphetamines, have nearly tripled (196% higher) and are at their highest level since 1997, according to drugwarfacts.org.

The potential impact on workplace safety and productivity is substantial:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), billions of dollars have been lost or spent by employers in terms of decreased productivity, increased accidents, absenteeism, turnover, and medical costs.
  • According to a NIDA survey, drug using employees are 2.2 times more likely to request time off, 2.5 times more likely to have absences of 8 days or more, 3 times more likely to be late for work, 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident, and 5 times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.

How prevalent is drug/alcohol abuse in the business world?

  • The DOL reports via their Workplace Advisor that 73% of all current drug users aged 18 and older (over 8 million adults) are employed.
  • More than 14% of employed Americans report heavy drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks on five or more days in the past 30 days), per a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services national survey on Drug Abuse.
  • According to a survey by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, more than 60% of adults know people who have gone to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

How can employers address this potential problem?

  • Workplaces can establish comprehensive drug and alcohol programs, which may include a written policy, education and training, testing, and access to treatment through EAP’s or other resources.

What are the benefits of such programs?

  • After implementing a comprehensive drug-free workplace program, a Florida mechanical contracting company saved $100,000 on workers’ compensation costs, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and had fewer accidents according to the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace in Washington, DC.
  • Only four years after implementing a workplace substance abuse program which included drug testing, the DOL Working Partners reports a landscaping company in Arizona saved over $50,000 a year due to increased productivity, fewer accidents, and less absenteeism and turnover.

Do you need assistance developing a drug and alcohol policy or program for your workplace? Check out the links above, the MEMIC Safety Director, or your local government agency regarding drug testing procedures and applicable laws.

  Diagram showing the impact of drug abuse in the workplace.