New Government Study Shows the Value of Drug Testing

Issue 51 - September 2007

If you are hiring workers between the ages of 18 and 25 and you do not conduct pre-employment drug testing, there is a good chance that you may be hiring substance abusers.
A new federal study indicates that 19% of workers in that age group are current (in the previous 30 days) illicit drug users compared with 10.3% of those between 26 and 34, 7% of those between 35 and 49, and only 2.6% of workers between 50 and 64. Using data collected in 2002, 2003, and 2004, the government determined averages for many categories of drug use and drug-free workplace program trends. The report, issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is entitled "Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs."
Click here to view the full report.

The report makes it possible to anticipate substance abuse issues within a variety of demographic categories. For example, according to the report, a typical drug-abusing worker is a young, white male without a high school education who makes less than $20,000 a year. That is not to say that all workers in these categories are substance abusers, but if your company hires workers of these demographics, then you should conduct drug testing.

Substance Abuse by Industries and Occupations
Certain industries have higher rates of substance abuse. For instance, more than 18% of full-time workers (ages 18-64) in the "Food Services and Drinking Places" industry admit to being current, illicit drug users, followed by "Performing Arts, Spectator, and Related Industries" at 15.5%, "General Merchandise Stores" at 15.4%, "Landscaping Services" at 14.4%, and "Construction" at 13.7%.

Drug-Free Workplace Programs
The study contains information about drug-free workplace program trends. For instance, nearly 44% of workers report they have access to educational information about drug and alcohol use, more than 58% say their employers offer an employee assistance program, and nearly 79% indicate their employers have a written drug-free workplace policy.

Drug Testing Makes Economic Sense
Only 42.9% of full-time workers reported that their employers conduct pre-employment testing and only 29.6% reported random testing programs where they work. However, 46% of workers indicated that they would be more likely to work for a company that conducts pre-employment testing, and 29.1% of workers who admitted to being illicit drug users said they would be less likely to work for a company that conducts random testing. This would indicate that pre-employment testing attracts the kind of workers you want and that random testing wards off the kind of workers you want to avoid.

The SAMHSA report is a valuable source of data that can help predict and identify potential drug problems in the workplace. Additionally, it can be used to justify the expense of virtually any drug-testing program.
For more information on Quest Diagnostics comprehensive drug testing solutions click here, visit or call 800-877-7484.

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