Why You Cannot Afford Drug Use In The Workplace

Studies Show Drugs in the Workplace Cost Employers Billions and Small Businesses Employ More Drug Users but Drug Test Less

Workers Compensation
Higher medical costs than non-abusers
more likely to be absent eight or more days a year
Substance abusers are less productive
Annual Cost of Drugs to Employers
0 million
lost workdays each year

Fact #1: How Do Employers and Employees Suffer?

Using drugs impairs decision-making abilities and physically impairs people. This is a deadly concoction when on the job. In fact, 10-20% of American workers who die at work have a positive result when tested for drugs or alcohol. An OSHA study states that the most dangerous occupations, such as mining and construction, also have the highest rates of drug use by their employees.

Employers suffer from hiring substance abusers in many ways. Not only do they run the risk of having deadly or dangerous accidents occur, but substance abusers also cost employers money and hurt them financially.

Substance abusers may:

  • Have poor work performance.
  • Are frequently late or absent.
  • Change jobs frequently.
  • Struggle with productivity.
  • File more workers’ compensation claims.

Fact #2: Legalizing marijuana is bad for the workplace.

The impact of employee marijuana use is seen in the workplace in lower productivity, increased workplace accidents and injuries, increased absenteeism, and lower morale. This can and does seriously impact the bottom line.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 50 percent of all on-the-job accidents and up to 40 percent of employee theft is due to drug abuse. Drug-abusing employees are absent from work ten times more frequently than their non-using peers, and the turnover rate is 30 percent higher than for those employees who do not engage in illicit drug abuse. Workers who reported drug use are significantly more likely to have worked for three or more employers in the past year, and to have higher rates of unexcused absences and voluntary turnover in the past year.

Small businesses face the largest problem. They are disproportionately hurt by employee marijuana use because they are much more likely to rely on younger workers (who have higher usage rates), and are less likely to utilize and/or be able to afford the preemployment drug testing which would detect drug use.

Fact #3: Motor Vehicle crashes are rising as a result of Drug use.

There has been a 49-percent increase in the rate of positives for marijuana among drivers stopped by State Troopers for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence in the first six months of 2013 in the State of Washington. In the brain, cannabinoid receptors are found in large concentration in areas that influence memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordination. Depth perception, coordination, and concentration are all required to safely drive a car or operate machinery.

A 2011 study entitled Marijuana Use and Motor Vehicle Use found that “crash risk appears to increase progressively with dose and frequency of marijuana use.” Key study findings included that “drivers who test positive for marijuana or self-report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.”

Another study of more than 64,000 insured drivers from 1979-1985 found that 31 percent of drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes reported smoking marijuana prior to the accident.

Fact #4: Indications of Possible Workplace Drug Problems

According to NCADD, the following job performance and workplace behaviors may be signs that indicate possible workplace drug problems:

  • Job performance.
  • Inconsistent work quality.
  • Poor concentration and lack of focus.
  • Lowered productivity or erratic work patterns.
  • Increased absenteeism or on the job “presenteeism.”
  • Unexplained disappearances from the job site.
  • Carelessness, mistakes or errors in judgment.
  • Needless risk taking.
  • Disregard for safety for self and others which can translate to on-the-job and off-the-job accidents.
  • Extended lunch periods and early departures.
  • Workplace behavior.
  • Frequent financial problems.
  • Avoidance of friends and colleagues.
  • Blaming others for own problems and shortcomings.
  • Complaints about problems at home.
  • Deterioration in personal appearance or personal hygiene.
  • Complaints, excuses and time off for vaguely defined illnesses or family problems.

Work can be an important place to address drug abuse issues and by establishing or promoting programs such as an EAP and a drug-free workplace program (DFWP), employers can help employees and their families through referrals to community resources and services.  Many individuals and families face a host of difficulties closely associated with drug use, and they bring these problems into the workplace, directly or indirectly. By supporting EAP and treatment, employers dramatically can assist in reducing the negative impact of drug use on the workplace, according to NCADD.

Employers with successful EAPs and DFWPs report improvements in morale and productivity and decreases in absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover and theft.

Employers with longstanding programs also report better health status among employees and family members and decreased use of medical benefits by these same groups.