How Workplace Drug Testing can Assist in America’s Opioid Epidemic

April 18, 2018

Drug Testing Articles


Workplace Drug Testing and America’s Opioid Epidemic

Nowadays, more than 2 million Americans are addicted to some sort of opioid. Ensure your employees are opioid-free with workplace drug testing.

Keyword(s): workplace drug testing

How would you feel if the nurse managing your child’s incoming trauma was high on opioids? What if the doctor responsible for stitching you up was in the habit of sneaking a drink at work?

Think that can’t happen to you?

Seventy percent of drug and alcohol users are employed, creating a high risk that employers will be held liable for injury or even death.

Read on to learn more about America’s opioid epidemic and how workplace drug testing can benefit your organization.

Intoxicated Employees

Drug-abusing employees are hazardous in the workplace. They cause accidents, and they have a higher absentee rate than their sober peers.

Workplace drug testing is a must for employers wishing to create a safer, more productive work environment.

Opioid Epidemic

Ruins in Europe demonstrate that opioids have been cultivated dating back as far as 6000 years. Opioids originate from the poppy flower, Papaver somniferum. The substance that comes from within the poppy pod has a soothing effect on the human brain. It also aids in the treatment of pain.

Morphine is the main ingredient extracted from opium. Physicians used morphine for the relief of pain as far back as the mid-1800s. Opioids use is common today in the form of the prescription drugs codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

These opioids are like heroin in their ability to decrease pain. But they also have a high risk for addiction and overdose risk.

Many people take legal opioids prescribed by a physician to help with pain from an injury. Unfortunately, legal opioids can cause addiction. After the prescription runs out, some people turn to illegal opioid use to manage their pain.

The total number of deaths from opioid overdose in the U.S. between 2002 to 2015 showed a nearly 3-fold increase.

In 2016, there were over 64,000 deaths from drug overdose with more than 20,000 of those deaths attributable to synthetic opioids. It is predicted that over the next decade, the death toll from opioids could reach as high as 500,000

Drug-Abusing Employees Cost Billions

Drug abuse in the workplace affects:

  • Safety
  • Attendance
  • Healthcare costs
  • Productivity
  • Morale

Annually, there’s an estimated $80-billion loss to the economy due to drinking and drug use in the workplace.

Employees using drugs or alcohol on the job cause accidents and even death. Drug use also results in higher rates of absenteeism and job turnover.

Accidents cause higher Worker’s Compensation costs. Health insurance rates also go up due to drug and alcohol-related health problems. Job turnover leads to decreased productivity.

Drug and alcohol use on the job may also lead to workplace violence since an intoxicated employee has impaired judgment and self-control, and those using amphetamines tend to have aggressive behavior

Employees who are not abusing drugs and alcohol are affected by their using counterparts. Increased absenteeism and health problems from drug and alcohol abuse, mean other workers have to pick up the slack. This causes low morale and higher job turnover.

When employees are happy, they stay in their jobs, leading to lower recruiting and training costs.

Pros of Workplace Drug Testing

Although workplace drug testing may seem costly, testing can save an employer significant amounts of money.

There are many pros to workplace drug testing, including reduced workplace accidents, Workers’ Compensation claims, theft, fraud, absenteeism, and violence.

Additionally, employers can create a healthier work environment with higher morale and productivity, lower turnover, and decreased conflict.

Implementing hiring policies that include workplace drug testing is a good way to avoid employing someone that already has a drug or alcohol problem. This is a good way for an organization to save money and decrease liability.

Industries that Benefit from Drug Testing

While all industries benefit from having drug-free employees, it’s especially important for those in the transport, manufacturing, construction, and medical fields where simple mistakes or poor judgment can easily lead to accidents and even death.

For example: In the US in 2015, there was one alcohol-related traffic death nearly every hour amounting to 10,265 people killed by an impaired driver. This amounted to almost one-third of all traffic-related deaths in 2015!

If you own a trucking or taxi company, an alcohol-impaired driver leaves you vulnerable to significant liability.

Types of Workplace Drug Test Kits

There are different types of alcohol drug test kits available.

Most people are familiar with the breathalyzer. It’s a common test used by the police to determine whether a driver is under the influence.

The breathalyzer is a noninvasive test that analyzes molecules expelled in your breath to determine if there’s alcohol in a driver’s blood.

A more invasive test to determine whether someone is under the influence is a blood test. However, this requires a trained professional to gather the blood so it may not be the best choice for many employers.

An easier, less invasive, and quicker way to test for alcohol is a saliva or spit test. This can be administered on site by an employer with an inexpensive cotton swab.

The term “peeing in the cup” has become synonymous with drug testing. It’s another minimally invasive test that can determine whether an employee has been drinking.

There is a urine test that identifies Ethyl Glucuronide, a byproduct of alcohol. It doesn’t have a problem registering false positives. Both urine tests take only a few minutes to administer.

There’s also hair follicle testing, which requires 40-70 strands of hair, making it somewhat invasive. It also requires the hair to be sent to a lab for testing. It does, however, show alcohol consumption for a time frame of up to 90 days.

You can familiarize yourself with what employers should know about testing here.

It’s Time for Workplace Drug Testing

Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace creates an unsafe environment. It also creates the potential for increased costs due to employer liability and low employee morale.

If you’re ready to create a healthier, safer, and more productive environment for your organization, it’s time to implement a workplace drug testing program.

Check out this informative blog post about creating a workplace drug testing program.

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