Phone: 1-833-869-8378 (1-833-TOX-TEST)
Alcohol and drug use among employees and their family members can be an expensive problem for business and industry, with issues ranging from lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft and low employee morale, to an increase in health care, legal liabilities and workers' compensation costs.
Two specific kinds of drinking behavior significantly contribute to the level of work-performance problems:
And it isn’t just alcoholics who can generate problems in the workplace. Research has shown that the majority of alcohol-related work-performance problems are associated with nondependent drinkers who may occasionally drink too much -- not exclusively by alcohol-dependent employees.
While alcoholism can affect any industry and any organization, big or small, workplace alcoholism is especially prevalent in these particular industries:
There is always a level of risk when using any drug including prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Drug reactions vary from person to person. If you are taking a drug you haven’t had before, you won’t know how it will affect you. It’s important to follow your doctor’s advice when taking prescription drugs and discuss any side-effects and how this might impact on your work.
The effects of prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax®) can have an impact on your work and you should discuss these with your doctor. Long term use in particular may become problematic.
Work can be an important and effective place to address alcoholism and other drug issues by establishing or promoting programs focused on improving health. Many individuals and families face a host of difficulties closely associated with problem drinking and drug use, and these problems quite often spill over into the workplace. By encouraging and supporting treatment, employers can dramatically assist in reducing the negative impact of alcoholism and addiction in the workplace, while reducing their costs.
Employers can address substance use and abuse in their employee population by: implementing drug-free workplace and other written substance abuse policies; offering health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance use disorders, including aftercare and counseling; reducing stigma in the workplace; and educating employees about the health and productivity hazards of substance abuse through company wellness programs.
Research has demonstrated that alcohol and drug treatment pays for itself in reduced healthcare costs that begin as soon as people begin recovery.
Workers with alcohol problems were 2.7 times more likely than workers without drinking problems to have injury-related absences.
A hospital emergency department study showed that 35 percent of patients with an occupational injury were at-risk drinkers.
Breathalyzer tests detected alcohol in 16% of emergency room patients injured at work.
Analyses of workplace fatalities showed that at least 11% of the victims had been drinking.
Large federal surveys show that 24% of workers report drinking during the workday at least once in the past year.
One-fifth of workers and managers across a wide range of industries and company sizes report that a coworker’s on- or off-the-job drinking jeopardized their own productivity and safety.
Workers who report having three or more jobs in the previous five years are about twice as likely to be current or past year users of illegal drugs as those who have had two or fewer jobs.
70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed.
Marijuana is the most commonly used and abused illegal drug by employees, followed by cocaine, with prescription drug use steadily increasing.
The problem is big! The U.S. Government reports that, in the last month alone, 9.7 million Americans used marijuana and 1.9 million used cocaine!
What every employer should know about employee drug abuse includes these two facts about illicit drugs:
Almost eight out of ten (77%) of Americans 18+ that use illicit drugs are employed full or part-time. That's 9.4 MILLION workers involved in employee drug abuse!. How many of "those" employees work at YOUR company?
As a result of employee drug abuse, the vast majority of businesses - small and large - suffer from substantially decreased productivity and increased accidents (accidents both on and off the job- the latter, of course, affecting attendance, and work performance while on the job). Employee drug abuse also dramatically increases medical claims and workers' compensation payouts. These more frequent claims, in turn, directly cause increases in the premiums paid by the employer for medical and workers' comp coverage. In fact, in the case of "medical" premiums, even employees end up paying higher contributions out of their paycheck every month!
Additionally, employee drug abuse definitely leads to the abusers' increased absenteeism and taking more than the average number of "sick days"- time off often paid for by their employer. While abusers are "buzzed" on the job, they are responsible for more product defects, missed deadlines, incomplete projects, or inaccurate work. To support their drug habit, abusers are responsible for higher than normal instances of employee theft- not just from their company, but from their fellow employees. They also can be counted on for more employee equipment loss, employee equipment damage, and other problems- including drug-dealing to support their own drug habit! Roger Smith, the former chairman of General Motors, said, "...employee drug abuse costs GM $1 billion a year."
What are employers doing about the employee drug abuse problem? Hundreds of thousands of employers - small and large - are now adopting and implementing one or more of the following: company-wide anti-drug abuse policies; comprehensive employee drug abuse education and drug awareness programs; drug testing programs; employee assistance (EAP) and rehabilitation programs. More than 100 million drug tests were performed in the U.S. last year.
Yes, when done properly. The typical procedure is a two-step process in which a urine sample (specimen) is divided in half, and the first half is tested using a relatively simple, inexpensive, yet highly accurate "screen" (usually an “immunoassay”). If the result of that initial screen is "negative" the lab will report the test as "negative" and no additional testing will be performed on that specimen. On the other hand, if the result of the first test is “positive”, then a second test is conducted on the second half of the original sample using a different testing process that serves to "confirm" whether or not the first analysis was accurate.
This second “confirmatory” test is performed using a more sophisticated and more expensive technique such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS). Only if both halves of a specimen show up “positive” by these two separate testing methods (and using portions of the same urine) is it then reported as a “positive” by the lab. The first test by immunoassay is 97-99% accurate, while the second test (by GC/MS or LC/MS/MS) is virtually 100.00% accurate from a scientific standpoint. Because of this Industry-standard, two-step, "fail-safe" process, the lab's report of the specimen as "positive" (AFTER a second, confirmatory test) will - virtually 100% of the time - be upheld in a Court of Law if the person who was tested should choose to try and legally "challenge" that result.
Yes, you "can", but the odds against it are very long and getting longer all the time. The opportunity for adulteration or substitution generally is limited by the integrity of the collection and testing process, and at any rate is detectable in most cases at the laboratory. The increasing popularity of “on-site” specimen collection by professionals has greatly contributed to the reduction of specimen adulteration or substitution by donors attempting to cheat the system.
Some activities, such as a non-pot-smoker being sealed in a phone booth with four marijuana smokers who smoke pot non-stop for eight hours, "might" trigger a false positive, but for most people, this scenario does not come close to being a valid concern. What does occasionally happen to cause a positive, though, is properly used prescription medicines or some other legitimate justification for testing “positive” on a drug test. This is where the Medical Review Officer (MRO) becomes invaluable in the process of “confirming” lab positives.
The MRO speaks directly with the employee involved. The MRO gives the employee a chance to prove (e.g., by presenting a prescription) that the drugs found in their system were legitimately prescribed. In such cases where proof is presented, then, the employee (although found "positive" by the lab test) will - instead - be officially (and correctly) reported to their employer by the MRO as "negative".
There are some restrictions on employee drug testing in a few states. But, generally, employers have a right to establish a written drug test company policy that requires that employees be drug-free and to implement employee drug testing as part of their program. In any case, federal (DOT) regulations take precedence over any local and state restrictions in the case of DOT-regulated companies.
In 1983, only 3% of the Fortune 200 companies were testing one or more classes of job applicants or employees. By 1991, that number had climbed to 97%.
First of all, there is no Constitutional or other legally protected right to engage in illegal conduct in the privacy of one’s own home or anyone else’s. In any case, employee drug testing is not done "in" the employee's home! Employee testing is always done while the employee is "on the job", about to start work, or immediately after their shift.
Regardless, it is the employer’s business when employee drug abuse OFF the job will affect performance or safety ON the job. No matter the "timing" of drug use, employee drug abuse that can adversely affect job attendance or performance can and should be the concern of the employee's employer. The employer should have a right to be concerned about an employee's substance abuse "at home", or "the night before" if it may adversely impact on his business production and on his and other's workplace safety "the next day". (U.S. employers have a legal obligation to provide each and every one of their employees with "a healthy and safe workplace environment") Employee drug abuse was documented in a study which found, that of those employees seeking help on a confidential “cocaine hotline”
Another study by the U.S. government found that those involved in employee drug abuse are:
Some start that way, but drug-use tends to escalate with time. Using “a little” turns into using “a lot”. Also, there is often a “gateway” effect: the initial use of what many perceive as less serious drugs (e.g., marijuana) can lead to the use of more serious drugs (e.g., cocaine); sporadic use can develop into chronic use, and people who never considered addiction a possibility for themselves personally can become desperate addicts. Further, the psychology of addiction is such that it includes a process of denial; addicts very seldom admit their addiction voluntarily.
Furthermore, even a “casual” user can present a substantial safety and health risk on the job to themselves, to their co-workers, and to the company’s customers.
Employee drug abuse has a major impact on workplace crime. Employees who have a $1,000-$3,000 a month narcotic habit do not usually support that habit with “just” their paycheck alone. General Motors, for example, has arrested over 500 employees for dealing drugs on the job! Crime in the forms of stealing from co-workers, blackmail, ties to organized crime, and the violence associated with drug dealing all threaten a health and safety workplace environment wherever drug abusers are employed. Further, the workplace often provides the perfect cover for buying and selling drugs.
In fact, drug-abuse treatment professionals state that a drug abuser's "JOB" is usually the one thing abusers will do ANYTHING to hold on to, for several reasons:
If you have drug users in your company, you probably have drug dealers in your company! In very large part, it will vary depending on a person's physiological makeup (e.g., height, weight, age, current state of health, state of mind). Other considerations include the person's "frequency" (1x per day? 3-5x per day?) and "quantity" of use and the "length of time" (days? weeks? months?) of their drug use prior to testing. However, for most people, detectable levels of the following drugs stay in the body for these periods of time:
For chronic users, drugs (other than alcohol) can be retained in the system much longer after their last use—up to 60 days in extreme situations.
Marijuana can be a highly addictive drug. It is retained in the fatty tissue of the body for several days and it can cause impairment long after the “high” wears off. A study was conducted at Stanford University in which airline pilots smoked relatively weak government-issued marijuana cigarettes for the test. Each pilot was then tested on computerized flight simulators. The testing resulted in simulated airline “crashes” right after the marijuana use. More alarming, however, was the fact that it also resulted in “crashes” FULLY 24 HOURS LATER, when every pilot reported "no residual effects" and each had stated they had "no reservations" about flying!
Employee drug testing PAYS because drug abuse COSTS your company LOSSES!
An incident at American Airlines showed the dangers of marijuana in the workplace. One computer operator who was high on marijuana while working at the airline’s central reservations system failed to load a tape into the computer at a critical juncture. The result of this employee drug abuse was 8 hours of downtime for the entire reservations system, significant data erasures, and a $19 million loss for the airline.
Urine specimen analysis is the most common by far. Blood analysis is not common because it’s “invasive” (needle used). “Oral” fluids analysis has recently become available, however, it does not do as good a job detecting marijuana use as is provided by testing urine. Hair specimen analysis is gaining in use. It will detect drug use as far back as ninety (90) days, much longer than it is detectable in the urine. Random hair testing is the method of choice for the majority of casinos.
Alcohol remains the number one drug of abuse in America. It hurts more employees and their families than all other drugs combined. Furthermore, particularly among younger workers, poly-drug abuse (involving alcohol and other drugs) is increasingly common.
Yes, very important! That is precisely why employers should make every reasonable effort to minimize the intrusiveness of their employee drug abuse prevention programs to their workers. Employees have the rights to privacy, confidentiality, accuracy in testing if the company tests for drugs, and a written drug testing policy that is fairly and consistently enforced.
In order to guarantee these employee rights, employers should take the following four steps:
A recent national Gallup survey of employees demonstrated an increasing intolerance among worker for employee drug abuse and an acceptance of their employers taking strong steps to provide a drug-free workplace. The respondents said:
Yes! Employee drug abuse affects all citizens in the form of higher taxes, higher insurance rates, more crime, higher health care costs, and higher consumer prices. It also affects most of us as employees. A major telecommunications company reports that 40% of its health care costs are attributable to substance abuse!
First: drug testing WORKS. As a result of advertised, high-profile drug-abuse prevention programs enacted at many companies, most drug users don’t even apply to work there (at companies that do drug testing). Some of those who do apply will then stop using for fear of being caught, and some who are later “caught” will often undergo treatment and go straight.
There are numerous success stories in both the private and public sectors, but perhaps none as dramatic as the U.S. Navy’s: a decrease since the 1980’s to under 4% presently (down from 28%) of its active personnel engaged in illicit drug use (i.e., found positive for one or more drugs when tested). This is specifically due to Navy’s implementation back in the 80’s of a comprehensive drug abuse prevention program - including monthly random drug testing of all active and reserve duty personnel- that program continues even today. Yes, employee drug testing is a necessity today, and yes, it works!