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How to Identify Drug Use in the Workplace

Drug consumption has reached its highest rate among college-aged students, especially marijuana. According to a study from the University of Michigan, 51% of full-time students have used an illicit drug during their lifetime and about 40% have in just the last 12 months. [7]

Why is this cause for concern?

Having employees who experiment with drugs can be an expensive problem for a business. Issues can range from loss of productivity all the way to fatalities. If you are not drug screening your employees, you are increasing liability against your business that can cost your business. The four major issues that derive from drug use are the following:

  1. Fatal accidents
  2. Injuries
  3. Excessive absence/sick leave
  4. Loss of company production

This does not include loss of efficiency, increase the probability of theft, lower morale, higher turnover, poor decision making, increased tardiness, hangover/withdrawal symptoms, or sleeping on the job.

Drug patterns and post-college employment status had the following conclusions: persistent drug users had the highest rate of unemployment (10.1%) compared to non-users (1.7%). [6]

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health,

Marijuana use and other illicit drugs are both associated with a decreased likelihood of continuous enrollment in college. [5] – so what would continuous employment look like in the workplace? The same result.

Since the early 90’s, the proportion of students using drugs ranging from marijuana to prescribed opioids and stimulants have skyrocketed. [2]

post college unemployment statistics

Since the early 90’s to mid-2000’s the use of cocaine and heroin went up 52%. The abuse of prescription drugs has also exploded-ranging from Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin. The numbers shot up 343% to almost a quarter million students. Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall 93% to 225,000 students. Tranquilizers like Xanax are up 450% to 171,000 students. [3] These shocking numbers have only been going up. One of the largest trending problems our nation is currently dealing with is the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis has claimed thousands of lives in this decade alone. It reports people killed by fentanyl, a substance found in synthetic heroin, has gone from 3,000 to more than 20,000 in just three years—540% increase. [4]

These numbers have been steadily increasing for the following reasons:

  • Shifted perception of drugs
  • Changes in legislation that make violations of consuming or obtaining drugs less severe
  • Availability of specific drugs, especially prescriptions (Adderall, Ritalin mostly)

Drug use is highest among people in their late teens and twenties. In 2013, 22.6 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds reported using an illicit drug in the past month. [8]. What does this data tell us? This is the primary age group of students in college. Ages 21-25, 26-29 and so forth see a steady decline in consumption. The evidence is there, testing younger folks makes sense because of their increase tendencies and exposure. [8]

past-month illicit drug use by age

Image by [8]

Drug abuse will be an ongoing issue in this world. Don’t let it affect your company’s performance. Screen your candidates and save your business the hassle.


Drugs & Alcohol in the Workplace[1]

Drug Abuse & Unemployment[2]

Wasting the Best & Brightest[3]

CNN Opioid Fentanyl Statistics[4]

NCBI Drug Use Patterns [5]

NCBI Drug Patterns in Young Adulthood[6]

University of Michigan Drugs Study[7]

Drug Abuse Government Facts[8]

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