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Drug Testing in the Workplace

Please help me with the following questions based on the text below:

What are your thoughts on drug testing in the workplace?

Is it necessary? Why?

Some might argue that the company has no business policing what employees do on their own time. What do you think?

Some might also argue that some drug testing programs are akin to the employee being guilty until proven innocent. What are your thoughts?

General Workplace Impact

Note: The following statistics should not be attributed to the U.S. Department of Labor, but rather their respective footnoted sources listed at the bottom of the page.

Substance Use and Abuse in America Today

In 2006, an estimated 20.4 million Americans were current illicit drug users. The rate of current illicit drug use among Americans has not changed much in recent years, hovering around 8 percent since 2002.1
About 57 million people, or more than one-fifth (23.0 percent) of the population age 12 and over, participated in binge drinking (having five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past 30 days). About 17 million people or 6.9 percent of the population age 12 and over, reported heavy drinking (defined as binge drinking on at least 5 of the past 30 days).2
Among youth ages 12-17, current illicit drug use steadily declined in recent years (down from 11.6 percent in 2002 to 9.8 percent in 2006). Moreover, after years of no change, the rate of binge drinking among youth ages 12-17 decreased from 11.1 percent in 2004 to 10.3 percent in 2006.3
However, among adults ages 50-59, current illicit drug use increased from 2.7 percent to 4.3 percent between 2002 and 2006, as the baby boom cohort continued to enter this age bracket.4
In 2006, an estimated 22.6 million persons (9.2 percent of the population age 12 and over) were classified with substance dependence or abuse in the past year. Of these, 15.6 million abused or were dependent on alcohol, 3.8 million abused or were dependent on illicit drugs, and 3.2 million abused or were dependent on both alcohol and illicit drugs.5
Substance Use and Abuse among Workers

Substance use and abuse is a concern for employers. Most drug users, binge and heavy drinkers, and people with substance use disorders are employed.

In 2006, of the 17.9 million current illicit drug users age 18 and over, 13.4 million (74.9 percent) were employed.6
Similarly, among 54.0 million adult binge drinkers, 42.9 million (79.4 percent) were employed, and among 16.3 million persons reporting heavy alcohol use, 12.9 million (79.2 percent) were employed.7
Of the 20.6 million adults classified with substance dependence or abuse, 12.7 million (61.5 percent) were employed full-time.8 Furthermore, among the U.S. working age population (ages 18-64) diagnosed with a substance use disorder, 62.7 percent were employed full-time.9
The prevalence of substance use among workers is lower than the prevalence among the unemployed, but a sizeable number of employed individuals use drugs and alcohol.

In 2006, 8.8 percent of those employed full-time were current illicit drug users, and 8.9 percent reported heavy alcohol use.10
Among adults ages 18-64 who were employed full-time, 10.6 percent were classified as having a substance use disorder in the past year, and 2.4 percent had a substance use disorder accompanied by serious psychological distress.11
Among full-time employed persons diagnosed with a substance use disorder, those ages 18-25 had the highest rates of substance use disorder, relative to those in other age categories.12
Employers in certain industries may be more at risk for employee substance use and abuse.

The major industry groups with the highest prevalence of illicit drug use in the past month were accommodations and food services and construction, and those with the lowest prevalence were the utilities industry, educational services, and public administration.13
About 16.9 percent of workers in the accommodations and food services industry and 13.7 percent of workers in the construction industry reported illicit drug use in the past month.14
About 3.8 percent of workers in the utilities industry, 4.0 percent of workers in the educational services industry, and 4.1 percent of workers in the public administration industry reported past month illicit drug use.15
The major industry groups with the highest prevalence of heavy alcohol use were construction, arts, entertainment and recreation, and mining, and those with the lowest were health care and social assistance and educational services.
About 15.9 percent of workers in the construction industry and 13.6 percent of workers in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry reported heavy alcohol use in the past month.
In contrast, 4.0 percent of workers in the educational services industry and 4.3 percent of workers in the health care and social assistance industry reported heavy alcohol use.
Likewise, workers in certain occupations may be more at risk for problems with substance use and abuse.

Workers in food service and construction occupations showed a higher prevalence of illicit drug use during the past month than other occupational groups, while those in protective service, community and social services, and education and related services occupations showed the lowest prevalence rates.16
About 17.4 percent of food service workers and 15.1 percent of construction workers used illicit drugs in the past month.17
About 3.4 percent of protective service workers, 4.0 percent of community and social services workers, and 4.1 percent of education, training, and library workers used illicit drugs in the past month.18
Construction occupations and installation, maintenance, and repair occupations showed higher prevalence of heavy alcohol use in the past month, while community and social services occupations showed the lowest prevalence rates.19
About 17.8 percent of construction and extraction workers and 14.7 percent of installation, maintenance, and repair workers reported heavy alcohol use in the past month.20
In contrast, 2.8 percent of community and social services workers reported heavy alcohol use in the past month.21
America's Workplaces at Risk

Substance use and abuse is not necessarily limited to after work hours, leading to the risk of impairment on the job.

An estimated 3.1 percent of employed adults actually used illicit drugs before reporting to work or during work hours at least once in the past year, with about 2.9 percent working while under the influence of an illicit drug.22
An estimated 1.8 percent of employed adults consumed alcohol before coming to work, and 7.1 percent drank alcohol during the workday.23
An estimated 1.7 percent of employed adults worked while under the influence of alcohol, and 9.2 percent worked with a hangover in the past year.24
Regardless of where illicit drug use or heavy alcohol use takes place, workers reporting substance use and abuse have higher rates of turnover and absenteeism.

Workers reporting heavy alcohol use or illicit drug use, as well as workers reporting dependence on or abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs, are more likely to have worked for more than three employers in the past year.25
Likewise, those workers are more likely to have skipped work more than two days in the past month.26
Workers reporting illicit drug use or dependence on or abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs were also more likely to have missed more than two days of work due to illness or injury.27
Furthermore, the impact of employee substance use and abuse is a problem that extends beyond the substance-using employee. There is evidence that co-worker job performance and attitudes are negatively affected.28 Workers have reported being put in danger, having been injured, or having had to work harder, to re-do work, or to cover for a co-worker as a result of a fellow employee's drinking.29

Small Businesses Most Vulnerable

Smaller firms may be particularly disadvantaged by worker substance use and abuse. For example, while about half of all U.S. workers work for small and medium sized businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees)30, about nine in ten employed current illicit drug users and almost nine in ten employed heavy drinkers work for small and medium sized firms.31 Likewise, about nine in ten full-time workers with alcohol or illicit drug dependence or abuse work for small and medium size firms.32 However, smaller firms are generally less likely to test for substance use.33

Smaller businesses are less likely to have programs in place to combat the problem, yet they are more likely to be the employer-of-choice for illicit drug users. Individuals who can't adhere to a drug-free workplace policy seek employment at firms that don't have one, and the cost of just one error caused by an impaired employee can devastate a small company.

Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace

The good news is that there are steps businesses can take to minimize the risks of worker alcohol use, and there are resources to help them do so. The U.S. Department of Labor can help employers develop drug-free workplace programs that educate employees about the dangers of alcohol and encourage those with alcohol problems to seek help.

Solution Preview

Hi,

Interesting questions! A drug-free workplace would be a given, both for the employees and employers alike. Let's take a closer look.

RESPONSE:

1. What are your thoughts on drug testing in the workplace? Is it necessary? Why?

a. Some might argue that the company has no business policing what employees do on their own time. What do you think?

This argument does not hold much water because drug testing in the workplace is to test employee's drug use while on the job, so it is not about EMPLOYEES using drug's on her or his own time; rather, it is on the employers time, if drugs are found in her or his system while on the job. In other words, substance use and abuse is not necessarily limited to after work hours, leading to the risk of impairment on the job. For example, an estimated 3.1 percent of employed adults actually used illicit drugs before reporting to work or during work hours at least once in the past year, with about 2.9 percent working while under the influence of an illicit drug.22 (from information you provided in the posting).

I think the company has every right, but before the company decides to use this option of mandatory/random drug testing on the job, the consequences should also be considered. They need to consider whether or not the company has a drug problem and if it warrants a drug-testing program or if other options might be best ...

Solution Summary

Based on the text provided, this solution provides insights on various aspects of drug testing in the workplace e.g. is it necessary and why. It also debates the argument that some drug testing programs are akin to the employee being guilty until proven innocent.

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