Several decades ago, heroin and other street drugs were most common among war veterans, the homeless, minority men and those that lived in the inner city. However, the population that is becoming more affected by drug abuse may be somewhat surprising to some. More and more people in the workforce are succumbing to opiate dependency in startling numbers.
While most businesses require prospective employees to pass a drug test prior to hire, this practice is posing some problems for employers. Some businesses are finding it hard to staff their business because people just cannot pass the drug test. Regarding the drug problem in the United States, the main focus appears to be on teens and young adults, but other adults need just as much attention when it comes to prevention, education and treatment of a drug problem.
While the number of workers failing drug tests nationally has dropped according to reports, the amount of workers abusing prescription painkillers is rising. Some people wonder if this discrepancy is due to employers giving up on drug testing their employees because they cannot afford to continue hiring more workers. If this is the case, the plan is backfiring. Workers that are under the influence of illegal drugs have a higher rate of accidents, mistakes, theft and are absent more often than workers who are not abusing drugs. The U.S. Department of Labor had worked with business throughout the country on setting up drug-free workplace programs, often through their local chambers of commerce. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) now oversees this program.
Some businesses are taking other measures to prevent drug abuse in the workplace. One company that has had problems with employees abusing drugs has brought in law enforcement to train management on the signs that someone is under the influence of drugs. Other companies have instituted a no tolerance policy and more strict drug testing requirements. Increasing the number of drug tests and randomizing them helps to prevent employees from getting away with using drugs while employed.
It will continue to take a concentrated effort by employers to ensure that the work environment is safe and drug-free. Part of a drug-free workplace program includes polices on what do to when someone does test positive, including providing information and referrals to treatment programs.