Drug Trends Impacting the Workplace


It is a tricky time for employers.  The changing pace and velocity of several drug-use trends is taking a toll on business’s operations and bottom line.  Specifically, the rise of positive workplace drug tests, our county’s pain medication/heroin epidemic, and marijuana legalization all are cause for employers to stay alert and assure they are maintaining a current drug-free workplace program.

The rate of positive workplace tests is increasing. Again.

Until recently, the rate of positive workplace drug tests was on the decline.  That all changed in 2013 when a 4.3% increase over the previous year was seen.  The increase hasn’t stopped – reaching a 10 year high in 2015 (date for 2016 has not been released).  The culprits? Amphetamines, marijuana and heroin.

Another concerning trend is the increased number of positive tests following workplace accidents. Since 2011, the rate of positive post-accident tests increased 30%.

Heroin is filling a void

Prescription drug abuse has actually eased a bit, but the increase in workplace heroin use is skyrocketing.  The number of employees testing positive for heroin has increased 146% since 2011.  And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heroin use jumped 63% between 2012 and 2013, with some of the greatest increases occurring in demographic groups with “historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes.”

Marijuana as medicine is now legal in Ohio.

In 2016, the Ohio Congress legalized marijuana for medical use and Ohio became the 25th state to legalize marijuana. Based on trends from other states who have legalized marijuana, Ohio will likely experience an increase in use.

And even though Ohio’s law does offer some protections for employers, that doesn’t mean marijuana will stay out of the workplace.  Drug testing data found that almost half of employees with a positive test in 2015 tested positive for marijuana, and that the rate of positives in this drug category has increased 26% since 2011.

What’s an employer to do?

Change is the new normal. It is imperative that businesses keep alert and be proactive.

  1. Stay current on the business impact of new drug trends.
  2. Maintain a fluid and responsive drug-free workplace program
  3. Connect with other businesses in your community to encourage everyone to address these issues.


To learn more about these trends and identify specific steps you can take to protect your business from these and other risks related to substance abuse, sign up for our upcoming webinar on Tuesday, April 4 at 10:30, “Work It Out: Managing Current Workplace Risks Associated with Substance Abuse


A modified version of this post was first published in Working Partners® Quarterly Consortium Newsletter  Working Partners® is a consulting and training firm working with end-user employers and systems to develop and maintain drug-free workplaces.  With more than 27 years of experience and servicing 1,700 clients annually, Working Partners® crafts policies, trains employees and supervisors, and connects organizations with affordable testing and assistance programs


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