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Low Unemployment but Higher Workplace Drug Use

Posted: June 3, 2018

June 3, 2017 - The jobless rate is now down to 3.8 percent - great news for anyone looking for a job in America.  The economy added roughly 223,000 net new jobs in May.  The economic recovery continues.

USA Today reported on June 3, 2018 that “many men ages 25 to 54 remain outside the workforce as a result of the opioid crisis”

The unemployment rate is the lowest since April of 2000.  The bad news is that positive drug test results among American workers is at the highest rate in 10 years.  This includes higher positive drug test results for marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.

A report from Quest Diagnostics analyzed over 10 million drug tests performed in 2017, the workforce positive rate is at its highest rate in a decade.  In the Midwest and Southern states methamphetamine positive drug tests are increasing at alarming rates.  Cocaine and marijuana also have increased percentages of positive workplace drug tests.  Only one piece of good news was that prescription opiate positivity rates declined dramatically on a national basis.  Perhaps public policy and efforts to curb abuse of opioids has had some impact. 

Anyone around in the 70’s and 80’s might remember the rampant use of cocaine among all types of  workers in the United States including even lawyers, stockbrokers, doctors and advertising executives.  Cocaine is back, positive rates of cocaine are on the rise with the highest rates of cocaine positive drug tests we have seen in over 10 years. Reports also indicate that in Columbia there is a significant rise in coca production leading to more cocaine traffic to the United States.

The 2016 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows over 28 million Americans as current illicit drug users.  Business owners must use caution when hiring employees.  An employee using illegal drugs is a liability to the employer and can cause devastating effects to the business.  Even overlooking marihuana use can lead to liabilities.  Employees that smoke marijuana might not be safe in the workplace and might not be as productive as employees not under the effect of an illicit drug.  It is ever so important for business owners to take steps to prevent substance abuse in the workplace.

In states with recreational marijuana, the positive rates for marijuana have risen considerably. SAMHSA reports for 2016 that among people aged 12 or older, 24.0 million were current marijuana users

Today, every business must make decisions about marijuana.  State laws must be reviewed and a policy needs to be in writing regarding employees and marijuana.  For any job that raises safety concerns, it is in the best interest of the employer to have drug testing including marijuana. Would you want a forklift driver in your warehouse to be a marijuana smoker?

For employers regulated by the United States Department of Transportation, there is little choice.  Marijuana is still prohibited and illegal nationwide.  Transportation regulated companies must have a drug free workplace program which includes testing safety sensitive employees for marijuana, cocaine, PCP, Opioids and amphetamines.  Employees testing positive for marijuana must be removed from the safety sensitive position.   

What does the White House say about the marijuana issue?  It is confusing as there are mixed messages from President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.     

Preventing substance abuse in the workplace leads to safety and higher productivity thus saving money for the business.  Implementing a drug free workplace program is a smart approach.  The program should be comprehensive and provide for educating employees and supervisors on the harmful effects of drugs in the workplace.  Drug testing is the tool for prevention and a deterrent to illicit drug use.

Drug screening programs and implementation of drug free workplace programs are available from National Drug Screening offering services in all areas of the United States.