Workplace Report: Many Full-Time Employees Use Drugs
Most Americans who are illicit drug users or heavy alcohol users also hold full-time jobs, according to a new report from SAMHSA. This substance abuse can pose significant risks to workers’ health and productivity.
The new report, Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs, presents findings on substance use among workers as well as workplace drug policies and programs. Findings are based on data collected during 2002, 2003, and 2004 for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Data analysis demonstrates that worker substance use is a serious problem, with an estimated 9.4 million full-time workers age 18 to 64 (8.2 percent) reporting illicit drug use in the past month. Among full-time workers using these substances, 3.0 million met criteria for illicit drug dependence or abuse. And 10.6 million were dependent on or abused alcohol.
The prevalence of past-month illicit drug use among full-time workers age 18 to 64 was estimated to be 8.2 percent and was highest among workers age 18 to 25 (19.0 percent). Food service workers (17.4 percent) and construction workers (15.1 percent) had higher prevalence of past-month illicit drug use than other occupational groups.
The prevalence of past-year alcohol dependence was highest among those age 18 to 25 (18.4 percent) compared with those age 26 to 34 (12.3 percent), 35 to 49 (7.8 percent), and 50 to 64 (4.0 percent). The report says that construction workers had the highest prevalence of past-month heavy alcohol use (17.8 percent), followed by workers in installation, maintenance, and repair (14.7 percent).
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Workers who abuse substances also face additional issues. Illicit drug use and heavy alcohol use are associated with higher levels of absenteeism and frequent job changes, the report says.
For example, nearly twice as many current illicit drug users skipped one or more days of work in the past month compared with workers who did not abuse drugs. Drug users also were far more likely to report missing 2 or more days of work in the past month due to illness or injury compared with workers who did not abuse drugs.
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Drug Testing and Education
According to the report, about 43.8 percent of full-time workers reported having access at work to educational information about drug and alcohol use, 58.4 percent reported access to an employee assistance program, and 78.7 percent reported that their workplace had a policy about drug and alcohol use.
In general, people who reported past-month illicit drug use were less likely to work for employers that provided these programs.
In addition, drug testing programs were fairly prevalent. A total of 48.8 percent of full-time workers reported that their employers conducted testing for drug use. Multivariate analysis suggests that illicit drug users are less likely to work for employers who conduct drug testing.
Past-Month Illicit Drug Use among Full-Time Workers
Age 18 to 64, by Major Occupational Categories:
click to enlarge image
Source: SAMHSA, Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs (p. 23 ). This chart shows that past-month illicit drug use is highest among full-time workers age 18 to 64 who work in food preparation and serving related fields (17.4 percent) as well as those who work in construction (15.1 percent).
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Unemployment vs. Employment
The prevalence of substance use behaviors and disorders is higher among unemployed persons than among full-time workers, part-time workers, and those with other employment status, according to the report.
Full-time workers make up about two-thirds of the population age 18 to 64 (114.7 million people). By virtue of sheer numbers, therefore, most substance users—and people with substance use disorders—are employed full time.
NSDUH provides data on substance use and related issues among the U.S. population. The annual survey estimates the usage prevalence of a variety of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, based on a nationally representative sample of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population age 12 and older.
To download a complete copy of Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs in PDF or HTML format, and view other workplace-related publications, visit SAMHSA’s Web site at http://oas.samhsa.gov/work2k7/toc.cfm.
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