Drugs and the Workplace: A Deadly Combination

In 2005 there were 17.2 million illicit drug users age 18 or older. Of that number 74.8% were employed either full or part time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 10 to 20% of the nation's workers, who died on the job, test positive for alcohol or other drugs. In 2009, 67 percent of drug users 18 or older were employed. All this means is that drugs and the workplace make a deadly combination.

This is a big problem and it very often results in avoidable workplace hazards. The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration are calling for more drug free workplace programs to be implemented in an attempt to trim down these numbers.

Drugs and Alcohol Don't Only Cost The Addict Money

In 2007, the economic cost of drug abuse in the U.S. was estimated at $193 billion which is broken down as $120 billion in lost productivity, $11 billion in healthcare costs, and $61 billion in criminal justice costs respectively, according to The Office of National Drug Control Policy at The White House.

Those who abuse drugs and alcohol on the job are costly to everyone. These people are usually the ones that account for high employee turnover and they are also the ones that miss a lot of work. Unfortunately, they are also the ones that are often responsible for workplace accidents and disasters.

Drugs and The Workplace, Not Good Friends

Being under the influence of anything while at work can affect reaction time and reflexes, which can be disastrous. People who work under the influence cause accidents are often the ones who are injured. In fact, industries with the highest rates of drug use are the same as those that are the highest risk for injury in the first place. This includes construction, mining, manufacturing and wholesale.

According to OSHA, there are five separate elements that ensure a drug free workplace. These five elements are 1) A policy that does not tolerate it. 2) Supervisor training. 3) Employee education. 4) Employee assistance. 5) Drug testing. OSHA concludes with the fact that there must be consideration for employee rights to privacy and that many workers with substance abuse problems can be returned safely to the workplace provided they have access to appropriate treatment. With the right addiction treatment program anyone can fully recover, with that drugs and the workplace can be taken care of and have no more problems.