Drug Use in the Workplace

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The numbers are astonishing:

  • Approximately 75% of the illicit drug users in the United States are employed either full or part time.
  • 80 percent of the adult binge drinkers were employed either full or part time.
  • 79 percent of the adult heavy drinkers were employed.
  • In 2000, workers in the construction and mining industries reported the highest rates of past month heavy alcohol use (15.7 percent) and past month illicit drugs use (12.3 percent) while workers in professional services and in government had the lowest rates.
  • Workers in wholesale and retail industries also reported high rates of past month illicit drug use (10.8 percent) and past year dependence or abuse of alcohol (10.5 percent).

And the cost of drug and alcohol use in the workplace? Equally astonishing:

  • Problems related to alcohol and drug abuse cost American businesses roughly $81 billion in lost productivity in just one year.
  • Studies have shown that substance-abusing employees function at about 67% of their capacity.
  • Up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities and 47 percent of industrial injuries can be linked to alcohol use and alcoholism. 
  • Employees who use drugs are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident and 5 times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Employees who use drugs cost their employers about twice as much in medical claims as do non-drug-using employees.

What does this mean for an employer in today’s workplace? It means that it is more important than ever to have a well written and legally sound drug and alcohol policy in place. My next blog postings will cover precisely this topic, with information about what a drug and alcohol policy has to contain to be legally sound in Minnesota and other steps that an employer can and must take in order to stay in compliance with the law.

Drug and alcohol policies and drug testing are not easy matters in the workplace, at least from a legal points of view. But they are important and in some industries, necessary ones to have in place. More later.


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