By Todd Williams
Recently I read an article in USA Today, entitled, “As (the) nation struggles with (the) opioid crisis, workers bring addiction to the job.”1 The article transcends the recent legalization of recreational drug usage and the full-addiction of opioids in the workplace. The article is about Chris Tullock, a recovering addict. Decades ago, Chris Tullock was succeeding in the restaurant industry. What began as just recreational marijuana use ended with a full addiction to opioids which led her down a dark path. Since becoming clean 11 years ago, after intensive rehab, she is beginning to tell her tragic story of decline and abuse and giving us the peek into the real issues with workplace drug abuse. What seemed like a harmless activity impacted her life and the lives of those around her. Ultimately she turned her life around and got the help she needed. However, there are many individuals among us that just don’t have the strength, courage, or knowledge of how to obtain help from the addition that is costing us all too much.
Today there is a drug for everything and they come in all kinds of color, shape, and sizes. Some are legal, most are not. Some are only prescribed by a doctor, some are sold over the counter, while others are only sold on the street. In today’s world of “a pill will cure it”, how can you be sure that your workplace is safe? As an employer, or as an employee, how can you be sure that the person working beside you is thinking clearly and is not going to put your life or the life of your employees in jeopardy?
In addition to illegal drugs, we have also become numb to the rise in prescription pain killers which are also leading to skyrocketing drug abuse. You can find a pill for anything and, in most cases, find a doctor who will prescribe it. However, with the increase in abuse in America’s workplace, how is this affecting your ability to run a profitable, safe, and thriving business? Also, what are the real costs of drug abuse in America and what can we do as a society and as individual employers to decrease the rising costs?
Understanding the Drug Epidemic
It is estimated that over 70% of the 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed.2 This statistic, coupled with the fact that there are so many drugs on the market today, it is difficult to understand our individual contribution as well as our country’s costs. Drugs today can be classified in many categories, including stimulants, inhalants, cannabinoids, depressants, opioids & morphine derivatives, anabolic steroids, hallucinogens, and prescription drugs.
With all of these drugs out on America’s streets, what are the best ways to safeguard your work environment and ensure the safety of your customers, your employees, and yourself? In recent studies, it has been found that illegal and prescription drug abuse in the United States costs us more than $271.5 billion a year, not including other costs to society such as the impact on productivity, crime, and healthcare. There has also been a steady decline in employer screening solutions due to the very low unemployment rate and the rise of recreational marijuana legalities.
Today we know that the employer costs are rising and the rate of violence in the workplace continues to increase. In a recent study by Quest Diagnostics, it stated that that the “percentage of workers testing positive for drugs hit a fourteen-year high in 2018”. “Positivity rates” (positive test results) showing drug use among U.S. workers increased nearly five percent in urine employer drug tests (4.2 percent in 2017 versus 4.4 percent in 2018), climbing to the highest level since 2004 (4.5 percent). Quest Diagnostics contends that drug usage among workers is now more than 25 percent higher than the thirty-year low of 3.5 percent recording between 2010 and 2012.”3
With the rise in individual drug usage, employer risks have increased and the costs have skyrocketed. In the same time period workplace safety and productivity, relative to the corresponding drug costs, have declined. Missed work, higher insurance costs, and lost wages have all become the normal costs of doing business and oftentimes we don’t understand that specific measures can drastically reduce our individual and collective costs. Recently the NSC (2019) did a study on workplace absenteeism and treatment measures that could be offered to employees. They stated, “when individuals with substance use disorders receive treatment and recover, absenteeism decreases by 36% and work turnover decreases by 13% compared to a person with an active substance use disorder.”4
It is also reported that drug abuse costs the nation more than $120 billion per year in lost productivity, according to The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). According to NDIC estimates, drug abuse accounts for, $49 billion in reduced workdays, $48 billion in incarceration expenses, and $4 billion due to premature deaths.
With these rising costs all across America, how can you protect yourself from the rising costs of insurance, healthcare, and liability cases that swirl around us? Trust yourself and your business to an accredited TPA (Third Party Administrator) that can determine the best way to work with your requirements, your employees, your costs, and your desires. Through an initial consultation, Peopletrail will move you through an initial investigation and assessment to determine the appropriate costs, needs, and requirements to keep your work environment safe and to encourage responsible drug addiction recovery if needed. According to Wally Davis, Peopletrail CEO, “we are finding more and more drug-related concerns for our customers in recent years and the rate of increase is alarming.” Recent increases in harmful opioids are alarming and will definitely add to labor, insurance, and health-related costs.
Drug Testing varies depending upon the type of drug and specimen being tested. Drug tests include urine, hair, saliva and can also test specific drugs. Employer Drug testing solutions are easy to administer and offer a level of confidence that assures a safe working environment. Specific pre-employment testing, including random drug testing, must be a part of your employment and Human Resource actions to help reduce the costs and increase safety in the workplace.
We all own this problem in America and it’s our responsibility to fix it. With the help of third-party drug administrators, like Peopletrail, LLC, you can be guarded against the travesties that illegal and recreational drug abuse can cause.