What You Need to Know about Impairment and Why It Matters

Most employers lack an understanding of impairment and its impact on the workplace. Drug Impairment Training is designed to drive change, instead of just adapting to it. It is critical for employers to identify employees who are impaired.

The U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of drug- and impairment-related deaths. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids. Despite efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, deaths from drug overdoses reached an all-time high in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The percentage of fatally injured drivers testing positive for drugs – 40% — is almost the same as those testing positive for alcohol. The most recent roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 22% of drivers tested positive for some drug or medication.

According to the National Safety Council, the use and abuse of opioid painkillers, and the development and use of synthetic cannabinoids in the workplace has reached a peak. NSC reports 23% of the U.S. workforce has used drugs non-medically. More than 20% of the workforce has misused painkillers. Even employees who take a regular dose of medication may be too impaired to work.

Drug overdoses now cause more deaths than car crashes, and painkillers contribute to more deaths than any other type of drugs. The positivity rate for amphetamines has nearly tripled in the U.S. workforce since 1997, from 0.3% to 0.9% in 2013. Also troubling is the positivity rates for opiates. The rate for these drugs has more than doubled over the last decade—oxycodone use alone has gone up 71% since 2005, according to Quest Diagnostics.

Off the job crashes account for 81% of employer crash-related health benefits costs, and half of crash-related injuries cause employees to miss work. According to NSC Injury Facts, the average economic cost of a crash is more than $1 million per death and more than $78,000 per nonfatal disabling injury. Employers pay significant costs associated with off-the-job crashes, including decreases in employee health, wellbeing and productivity, and increases in lost time from work and insurance costs.

Many people do not instantly picture suit-and-tie professionals when they think of a drug addict. They think of someone without a job, possibly living on the streets, dirty and unkempt. The reality, though, is that substance abuse is common among full-time employees in the U.S.

According the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, 10.8 million full-time workers in the U.S. have a substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse by full-time employees makes up over half (55.1%) of adults aged 18-24 with a substance abuse disorder. Substance use disorders cost the nation an estimated $276 billion a year, with much of the cost resulting from lost work productivity and increased healthcare spending. Seventy-six percent of people with drug or alcohol problems are employed.

In a 2014 survey on drug use, SAMHSA found there are 4.3 million current non-medical users of painkillers and nearly 2 million people have painkiller substance use disorders.

According to the NSC:

  • Employers with successful drug-free workplace programs report improvements in morale and productivity and decreases in absenteeism, accidents, down time, turnover and theft
  • Employers with long-standing programs report better health status among employees and family members and decreased use of medical benefits by these same groups