Data released by Quest Diagnostics shows a huge increase in the rate of positive tests for use of certain drugs submitted by employees at businesses across the Northeast. Methamphetamine specifically saw a 150 percent jump in use in the region that includes New Jersey, and rates of heroin and marijuana use also increased over the past few years, according to the organization.
In New Jersey, the overall rate of positivity for drug use dropped by more than 4 percent from 2016 to 2017, putting the state’s ranking below the national average, yet the rate of use is still 3.5 percent higher than its 30-year low in 2012. Additionally, in some parts of the state, use of certain drugs is far higher than the national average.
A spokesperson for Quest Diagnostics in Seacaucus said: “Positivity for a metabolite of heroin is higher in New Jersey than the national average. The amphetamine positivity rates in New Jersey have also been creeping upwards in recent years.”
New Jersey is not alone when it comes to a steadily increasing problem with use of stimulant drugs like methamphetamine. According to a statement released by Quest Diagnostics: “The analysis of 2017 data also suggests shifting patterns of drug use, with cocaine and amphetamines positivity surging in some areas of the country and marijuana positivity rising sharply in states with newer recreational use statutes. Prescription opiate positivity rates declined dramatically on a national basis.”
Striving for a Drug-Free Workplace
For employers, the data is alarming. It indicates that the Drug-Free Workplace Act, instituted 30 years ago, has not served its intended purpose of creating a safe workforce that is free of substance abuse. For business owners and human resources department, the challenge becomes identifying the drug of choice in their area or among their employees, and being able to identify the signs of use so they can intervene in a timely manner. The goal is to ensure the safety of all employees and protect them from the potentially dangerous choices that a coworker under the influence might make as well as help the employee to get the assistance needed to overcome their substance use problem and heal.
This is best accomplished by doing the following:
- Create a Drug-Free Workplace policy and disseminating it to all staff so everyone is aware of the limitations, the reasons behind regulations, what options are available in terms of treatment and support, and what policy is in regard to addressing the problem.
- Hold regular substance abuse awareness workshops that help everyone understand the potential risks of drug use and abuse on the job.
- Randomly drug test regularly to identify people who may be struggling with a substance use disorder but are still under the radar.
- Implement drug testing after every accident that occurs on the job.
- Institute a “reasonable suspicion” policy for drug testing if there are indications that someone may be using drugs on the job.
- Use only federal and/or state certified drug testing labs for results and retest positive results at another such lab to verify.
Handling Challenges When They Arise
For a number of industries in certain regions, it has been very difficult to staff appropriately due to the ongoing drug problems in their area. It is also not easy to manage the issue when a long-time employee who is well educated and experienced is struggling with a substance use disorder. Taking the first steps toward addressing the problem proactively can feel like the most difficult part, especially if there is no plan in place. If there is someone in your company who is in crisis due to addiction, you can immediately start to address the issue by staging an intervention that will highlight the serious nature of the problem and outline the step-by-step process by which they can get treatment and return to work, if they choose.
When staging an intervention in the workplace, it is important to:
- Follow all policies set forth in the company’s Drug Free Workplace policy.
- Talk about treatment options and services covered by the company with human resources in advance. Make arrangements for their immediate entrance into treatment.
- Notify upper management as needed.
- Choose a very small number of people to take part in the event. Do not include everyone in the department or more than three or four people.
- Consider holding the intervention at an off-site location.
- Make it clear that there is no option to continue the status quo and avoid treatment if it is proven through drug tests or eye witness accounts that the person is in fact regularly under the influence on the job.
Is someone in your workplace in need of support to connect with an addiction treatment program?