Employers Feel Effects of Increased Marijuana and Opioid Use

Do you know someone at work from whom you can easily score marijuana or prescription painkillers? Have you seen someone die from overdose on the job from opioids? Have you witnessed someone noticeably impaired by marijuana cause an accident that’s led to injury? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone. Recent data from across the employment spectrum indicates that companies are increasingly feeling the effects of marijuana and opioid abuse in their ranks. Some of the industries most affected by this trend include law enforcement, firefighters, emergency responders and cleanup workers. These workers are also affected by increased rates of alcoholism.

What Is Behind the Rising Rates of Addiction and Fatality?

There are a variety of contributing factors to the rising rates of workplace substance abuse, chemical dependency and overdose fatality. These factors range from macro and political to those more specific to the industries in question. The stressful and physically taxing workload of these industries very often cause workers to self-medicate. The change in attitude toward marijuana use has led many states to develop legalization laws. Data from Quest Diagnostics reveals that in 2017, marijuana was the most commonly detected substance in workplace drug tests. The organization also reports that workforce drug positivity is at the highest rate it’s been in a decade.

Effects of Workplace Substance Abuse and Addiction

Factors like marijuana legalization have led to a variety of workplace hazards, including impaired judgment, employee absence and viable concerns, including but not limited to operational health and safety, workplace accidents and more. One recent study from the University of Michigan indicated that 56 percent of respondents drive while high on a regular basis. These behaviors carry over into the workplace and impair the safety of employees and their coworkers. In addition to the actual use of marijuana in the workplace, employee safety advocates are increasingly concerned about the production, processing and growth of the drug in the industry.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) recently cited a marijuana processing company for a workplace explosion in which an employee suffered burns from ignited cannabis leaf extract. Additionally, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has voiced significant concerns regarding workplace safety at cannabis processing facilities, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) residue on surfaces, repetitive-motion injuries and a variety of other issues.

Escalating opioid abuse also continues to impact the American workplace. The National Safety Council reports that:

More than 70 percent of employers are affected by prescription drugs in the workplace.

76 percent of employers do not offer training to identify the signs of misuse.

81 percent lack a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy.

41 percent of those that test employees for drugs do not test for synthetic opioids.

Current workplace drug testing rarely screens for commonly abused prescription opioids, including dilaudid, fentanyl, hydrocodone, or oxycodone.

Drug Overdoses in the Workplace

Perhaps some of the most alarming and tragic statistics regarding workplace substance abuse are the rising rates of overdose fatality. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of fatal overdoses has increased by at least 25 percent since 2012:

65 in 2012 to 82 in 2013

114 in 2014 to 165 in 2015

217 in 2016 to 272 in 2017

Overdose fatality accounted for over five percent of all workplace fatality in 2017. Industry regulators and human resources watchdogs are looking for more and more ways to curtail these fatalities and further stress the importance of workplace sobriety.

Reversing the Course of Workplace Addiction

While workplace substance abuse is threatening the health of employees, organizational growth and profits of companies across every industry, it doesn’t have to derail yours. Recovery Unplugged is committed to helping you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to workplace substance abuse treatment assistance, and wants to help you give your employees the second chance they deserve. Contact us today to schedule a time to speak with our staff. We offer educational programs and resources about the impact of addiction in the workplace, as well as the steps you can take to guide your employee toward treatment while minimizing damage to your staff and everyday operations.