2022Drug Testing

Written By Digital Content Editor Thomas Ahearn

Despite the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana having a direct impact on drug testing in the workplace, government statistics show there are still many more alcohol users and abusers in the U.S. than marijuana users, according to an article by Bill Current, President and Founder of Current Consulting Group.

In his article “Alcohol Is Still the #1 Substance of Abuse in the Workplace,” Current cited statistics from a 2020 National Survey on Drug Uses and Health that found among the 138.5 million Americans who were current alcohol users, 61.6 million were classified as binge drinkers and 17.7 million were classified as heavy drinkers.

Alcohol is the single most used and abused drug in America. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly 14 million Americans (1 in every 13 adults) abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.

The article stated that many employed Americans with a drinking problem consume alcohol on the job. A survey of employees conducted by American Addiction Centers found that a whopping 66 percent of people (69.5 percent men and 64 percent women) admitted that they had once used alcohol during work hours.

Workplace alcohol abuse has a direct impact on safety and injuries. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD), workers with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to have injury-related absences and alcohol tests detected alcohol in 16 percent of emergency room patients injured at work. 

NCADD reported that analyses of workplace fatalities showed that at least 11 percent of the victims had been drinking, federal surveys show that 24 percent of workers report drinking during the workday at least once in the past year, and 20 percent of workers reported a coworker’s drinking jeopardized their productivity and safety.

The article also cited numerous reports indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the problem of substance abuse and its impact on the workplace worse. One year into the pandemic, an annual report revealed a significant increase in alcohol and other substance use affecting 49 percent of American workers.

Outward signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse at work may include sleeping while working, being tardy or not showing up, poor decision making, confrontational behavior with supervisors or coworkers, unintentional injuries to oneself or others, lack of coordination, bloodshot eyes, and inability to complete work assignments.

Because of the direct effects of alcohol abuse on the workplace, employers have a right and an obligation to take steps to address the problem. This can include screening employees for alcohol following accidents and when reasonable suspicion exists that an employee is on the job under the influence of alcohol.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers a current alcohol abuser to have a disability and is thus protected under the ADA, employers in all 50 states still have the right to prohibit employees from consuming alcohol while on the job and prohibit employees from being under the influence of alcohol at work.

The article mentioned “several accurate and scientifically sound alcohol testing methods” which include Evidential Breath Testing (EBT) which is permitted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) as an alcohol screen and required for a confirmation test and permitted by most states outside of DOT testing.

“Employers have a vested interest in ensuring that their workers are alcohol-free while on the job. Alcohol screening when and how permitted is one of the most effective ways for employers to deter workers from using alcohol on the job or being at work while under its influence,” Current concluded in the article.

Current founded Current Consulting Group in 1998 and the company is the number one recognized brand name in compliance, business development, and operations consulting in the drug testing industry. He created Current Compliance, the only comprehensive online subscription database for all state workplace drug testing laws.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is a service offering of ClearStar, a leading Human Resources technology company that offers drug testing that is fully integrated with major laboratories with a single candidate invite for all services via text or email and real-time collection status updates. To learn more, contact ClearStar.

ClearStar and Current Consulting Group are also sponsoring a free webinar titled “Continuing the Discussion: A Deep Dive Into 5 More States’ Drug Testing Laws” hosted by Current and Senior Legal Consultant Yvette Farnsworth Baker, Esq., on Wednesday, September 21, 2022. To register for the free webinar, click here.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a service offering of ClearStar – does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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