Worker Drug Use and Workplace Policies and Programs: Results from the 1994 and 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
In 1997, approximately 6.3 million people, or 7.7 percent of the 81.8 million full-time workers age 18 to 49 reported having used illicit drugs in the month prior to their interviews. In 1994, about 6 million people, or 7.6 percent of the 78.7 million full-time workers age 18 to 49 reported having used illicit drugs in the month prior to their interviews. While current illicit drug use rates were about the same between 1994 and 1997, the prevalence rate for current heavy alcohol use among full-time workers dropped from 8.4% in 1994 to 7.6% in 1997. The data also revealed an apparent shift of workers reporting both current illicit drug use and current heavy alcohol use from the small-sized establishments to the medium-sized establishments between 1994 and 1997.
Both the 1994 and the 1997 data indicated differences in employee reports of workplace response to drug and alcohol abuse based on workplace size. Employees at small workplaces (1-24 employees), compared with medium-size (25-499 employees) or large workplaces (500 or more employees), were least likely to report having information or a written policy about drug and alcohol use at their workplaces. Moreover, employees at workplaces with large establishment sizes reported more frequently that their workplace had some type of workplace testing programs than those at smaller or medium-size establishments.
The survey shows variation in reports of employer policies regarding drug and alcohol use. In both 1994 and 1997, workers were more likely to report that their workplaces provided information about drug and alcohol use or had a written policy about drug and alcohol use than to report that their workplaces had access to employee assistance programs (EAPs). Drug testing as part of the hiring process remained the most frequently mentioned testing program among workers across all occupational categories.
There is evidence that workplace policies matter. Employees in three of the four occupations with the lowest rates of drug use (protective service, extraction and precision production, and administration support) were also among employees in the four occupations with the highest rates of drug information and policies in the workplace. Employees in three of the four occupations with the highest rates of drug use (food preparation, waitstaff and bartenders; construction; and other services) were also among employees in the four occupations with the lowest rates of drug information and policy in the workplace. Workers in professional specialty, technician and related support occupations, together with workers in food preparation, waitstaff, and bartender occupations reported the highest rates of reluctance to work for employers who tested for drug use at hiring or randomly.
This page was last updated on December 30, 2008.