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SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEMS IN THE WORKPLACE

 

 

 

By Gianni DeVincent Hayes, Ph.D
December 27, 2006
NewsWithViews.com

How much thought have you given to the company you hired to do remodeling? Enough to consider that the employer may unwittingly send a worker to do the job who drinks every day and, under the influence, failed to secure the load-bearing wall he’s working on which unexpectedly will come crashing down on you or a loved one, or a visitor one day?

How about a stoned lab tech running your tests and coming back stating you have an incurable disease when in actuality it’s not that at all? Or what about the reverse, where the drugged tech entirely misses a disease that could have been treated but instead turned into something fatal because his error deprived you of the treatment you could have had?

And how many times have you heard about people who have lost their lives because a company worker was driving drunk and killed an innocent pedestrian or those in another vehicle?

Just as scary are the pilots who get away with transporting planeloads of people while being alcohol or drug-impaired. Maybe one had insufferable back pain for days and over-took his prescribed pain medication and then piloted a plane drugged? After all, abusing prescription medication is becoming a bigger problem than using illicit drugs.

Ever think about the number of people we trust to do a commendable, steadfast, careful job who drink or do drugs to feel good, erase pain, or just to maintain a level in their body to seem “normal”?

Not Just the Kids; On-the-Job, Too

We worry about our kids doing drugs and alcohol but yet give little thought to what’s going on where we or others work. Drug usage is high in the workforce, and perhaps the most dangerous because employees have jobs that affect not only other workers but the general public who relies on them for sound, safe, reliable, and quality service or products. Employers’ businesses can quickly go down the drain if an employee has an accident while driving under the influence, or if a worker on drugs harms himself or others while performing his tasks. What’s worse is that the unknowing public trusts employees, and if they fail to perform to standards because they are drunk or high, innocent patrons get hurt.

More employers are coming to understand that they must implement a drug/alcohol testing policy to protect themselves, their company, their other employees, and their patrons, as well as the general public. Nearly all states permit workforce testing. But guess who the employees are who are working under the influence: They’re the adults whose parents didn’t test them when they were kids.

Every employee has the right to a drug free workplace. Alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse certainly endanger the safety of the abusing employee, but it also imperils every other employee. In a nationwide survey performed for The Institute for a Drug Free Workplace, the Gallup Organization reported that 28% of the full-time employees surveyed identified illicit drug abuse as the greatest threat facing America today. Consider these figures by SafeWork:

  • Absenteeism is two to three times higher for drug and alcohol users than for other employees.
  • Employees with chemical dependence problems may claim three times as many sickness benefits and file five times as many workers' compensation claims.
  • In many workplaces, 20 to 25 per cent of accidents at work involve intoxicated people injuring themselves and innocent victims;
  • On-the-job supplies of drugs and alcohol account for 15 to 30 per cent of all accidents at work.[1]

Regarding a study of alcohol consumption by Modell and Mountz ("The Problem of Alcohol Use by Pilots," in New England Journal of Medicine, 1990) “when airline pilots had to perform routine tasks in a simulator under three alcohol test conditions, it was found that: “

  • Before the ingestion of any alcohol, 10 per cent of them could not perform all the operations correctly.
  • After reaching a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10/100ml, 89 per cent could not perform all the operations correctly.
  • Fourteen hours later, after all the alcohol had left their systems, 68 per cent could not perform all the operations correctly.[2]

Every day, in large corporations and small businesses all across the country, the problems caused by substance abuse disrupt the workplace. There is a false perception that America's drug problem is youth-orientated. However, two-thirds of drug abusers are employed. If you are in business you must be aware of these facts:

  • 41% of the workers surveyed stated that the drug abuse of fellow employees seriously affected their own job productivity.
  • The United States has the highest substance abuse rate of all industrialized nations.
  • America accounts for only 5% of the world's population, yet consumes 60% of the world's illicit drugs.
  • Over 35 million Americans are addicted to prescription and nonprescription medication.
  • 18 million Americans are alcoholics (“National Household Survey,” NIDA).
  • Nearly 20 million Americans use hashish or marijuana regularly.
  • Over 5 million people use cocaine or crack regularly.
  • Every day, 5000 people use cocaine or crack for the first time.
  • 74% of all illegal drug users are employed either full or part time.
  • 10% of all employees abuse alcohol or other drugs on the job.
  • 53% of employees state that drug use and drug dealing are major contributors to workplace violence.
  • 44% of drug users support their habits by stealing from or selling drugs to fellow employees.
  • An average 10% of all full-time employees abuse alcohol and other drugs on the job (“Drugs in the Workplace: Research & Evaluation Data, National Institute on Drug Abuse Research Monograph).
  • 64% of workplace substance abuse is alcohol related (Comprehensive Textbook of Substance Abuse).
  • 20% of all employees aged 18-25 use drugs on the job (“Research on Drugs and the Workplace,” NIDA Capsules).
  • 64% of all accidents on the job are directly or indirectly related to substance abuse in the workplace (Texas Business Today).
  • 1 in 5 or 6 employees is under the influence of alcohol in the workplace.
  • In 2003, the US Department of Labor estimated each impaired worker cost his or her employer $11,000 per year, up from $9,600 the previous year (“Alcohol & Other Drugs in the Workplace,” National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence of CA).
  • A user is 5 times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim (“Strategic Planning for Workplace Abuse Programs,” NIDA).
  • A substance abuser uses 16 times more sick leave than a non-abuser (The American council for Drug Education).
  • Abusers are almost 4 times more likely to injure themselves or another person in a work place accident, and 5 times more likely to be involved in an accident off the job, affecting attendance or job performance (“Some Facts About Drug Abuse in the Workplace,” The American Council for Drug Education).
  • Drug and/or alcohol abusers are 35% less productive than unimpaired workers (“Drug Abuse Attacks the Workplace,” The Electrical Distributor).

And There’s More

These statistics barely touch the surface. The National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance states that:

  • Marijuana remains the most commonly abused illegal drug by employees, followed by cocaine.
  • Small businesses bear the greatest burden of substance abusers. Substance abusers will steer away from drug-free workplace companies and go to work for those small businesses…where there is no drug testing involved.
  • Alcoholics & problem drinkers are absent from work nearly 4 to 8.3 times more often than normal, and are absent from work and average of five days per month due to drug use.
  • Light and moderate drinkers cause 60% of tardiness, absenteeism and poor quality work as a result of alcohol consumption. Heavy drinkers and alcoholics cause the remaining 40%.
  • When they do show up, substance abusers are 33 percent less productive.
  • The more frequently employees get high or drunk from consuming alcohol, the more likely they are to report work-performance problems, according to a study of over 6,000 employees.
  • Up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities can be linked to alcohol abuse and alcoholism .
  • Drug-using employees are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents and five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.
  • 38% to 50% of all workers’ compensation claims are related to substance abuse.
  • Substance abusers are three times more likely to use medical benefits than other employees.
  • 80 percent of drug abusers steal from their workplaces to support their drug use.
  • Substance abuse is the third leading cause of workplace violence.
  • Occupational groups most frequently associated with substance abuse are food prep workers, waiters, and bartenders. Other occupational categories showing high rates of illicit drug use were construction, other service occupations and transportation and material moving.
  • Heavy alcohol use was high among handlers, helpers and laborers, construction workers, precision production and repair, other service workers, and transportation and material moving.

Misplaced Loyalty

Many employees know who is stoned or sauced on the job but say little to nothing about it. In fact, often workers take their drugs or alcohol just to seem normal to others when in reality they are equally as high as binge users.

Employees are hesitant to report co-workers for fear of retaliation by the employee under the influence, and they worry they might lose their jobs, or that they’re not being fair or loyal to their friends on AODs. But their silence is harming not only them and other workers, but their jobs as well because if their employers will likely go under due to liability lawsuits from damages by users under drugs and alcohol. The best thing to do is to talk to the fellow worker and then talk to the employer. If employers value their workers who are having problems, they will guide them to getting help.

No employer should enact consequences against an employee for drug or alcohol problems unless they have a drug/alcohol policy that lays out the purpose of drug testing, how it will be managed, what the consequences will be, and so on. Many employers don’t want to test their employees for fear of losing key members or irreplaceable staff in their workplace. The restaurant industry is a good example of this where finding good help to begin with is difficult, and then testing them and learning that many be doing alcohol or drugs means they may very well have to close up shop. Yet, not testing them is even more detrimental.

Ironically, it is the very businesses that don’t test their employees that have the highest number of workers engaged in alcohol or drugs.

Conclusion

Since 1988, Drug testing in the workforce has been legal in nearly every state.

The Department of Labor advises that though “Drug testing is not required under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, and that the majority of employers across the United States are not required to test and many state and local governments have statutes that limit or prohibit workplace testing, unless required by state or Federal regulations for certain jobs…most private employers have the right to test for a wide variety of substances…. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires some federal contractors and all federal grantees to agree that they will provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a federal agency.” The DoL (Department of Labor) offers these most common reasons employers implement drug testing are to:

  • Deter employees from abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Prevent hiring individuals who use illegal drugs
  • Provide early identification and referral of employees who have drug and/or alcohol problems
  • Provide a safe workplace for other employees
  • Ensure general public safety and instill consumer confidence that employees are working safely.

Employers should work with professional drug testing companies that understand the rules and regulations for the states where the companies are located and/or conduct business. Drug and alcohol policies should be implemented, along with the testing program, but perhaps the most important component is employee and supervisor education.

So start by preventing any problems by testing tomorrow’s leaders in the privacy of your home; in the meantime, employers ought to be testing their workforce to protect themselves and others. It’s a pretty simple thing to do to save on a massive, complicated problem that will no doubt arise sooner than later.

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It’s important that the companies hire drug and alcohol-clean people who can provide us with safe and quality service and products. Equally important is putting people in jobs who can serve as positive role models for our children, our future leaders. Kids imprint after adults. If we want to keep them drug-free, then we adults must do the same.

Tomorrow may not be “another day” for users and abusers.

Footnotes:

1, Drug and alcohol abuse - an important workplace issue
2, Ibid

© 2006 Gianni Hayes - All Rights Reserved

Listen to Gianni Hayes on American Voice Radio

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Dr. Gianni DeVincent Hayes is an internationally recognized author of 14 royalty-published books (creative-services.biz and amazon.com) and over 100 articles and short stories in highly circulated and commercial newspapers and magazines, such as PARADE, US, PEOPLE, REDBOOK, WOMAN'S DAY, MOODY, and many others. One of her novels, "22 Friar Street," had been under a movie option, and her novel and screenplay on cloning, "Thy Brothers' Reaper," also had been optioned by a production company. "Jacob's Demon" is her newest novel on the Apocalypse. She also owns American Drug Testing Consultants which sells drug and alcohol test kits and does workforce testing, americandtc.com.

She's completing a full-length book on substance abuse as well as one on conspiracies, symbols, and secret societies in all aspects of our lives. See thenazarzine.com to learn about her religious/patriotic stance. Her writing service website is theamusezine.com. She has her own radio show, "New World Order Disorder," on theamericanvoice.com, Wednesdays, from 8:00pm-10:00pm, EST, which is heard worldwide. Contact her at info@thenaz.us.

Hayes has a doctorate in writing/comparative literature /humanities, with a focus on eschatology (Bible prophecy and politics); her bachelor degree and first and second master's degrees are in biology/chemistry and education. Certification has been achieved at several universities, such as the University of Rochester, University of Pittsburgh, and Middlebury College's Breadloaf. She speaks worldwide and has appeared on dozens of national radio and TV shows.

Book her for speaking engagements.

E-Mail: ndhayes@att.net



 

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More employers are coming to understand that they must implement a drug/alcohol testing policy to protect themselves, their company, their other employees, and their patrons, as well as the general public.