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Drug use affects 70% of US workplaces: Study

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Seventy percent of U.S. employers say drug use among employees has impacted their business, but only 19% of them have comprehensive workplace drug policies in place, according to a survey by the National Safety Council.

The study also revealed 57% test their employees for drugs, according to the study, released Thursday.

Of the employers testing for drugs, the survey showed only 41% screen for synthetic opioids — the kind of prescriptions usually found in medicines cabinets and increasingly available on the black market. 

The Itasca, Illinois-based organization, whose goal is to reduce workplace accidents, conducted what it called the first survey of its kind to help employers better understand the prescription drug problem.

The survey also revealed the types of incidents experienced in the workplace as the result of prescription drug use: 39% said absenteeism; 39% said workers have been caught taking drugs while on the clock; 32% said a positive drug test indicated use; 29% said a worker had been found to be impaired or showed decreased work output; 29% said a family member complained; 22% said another employee complained to human resources; 15% said an injury or near-miss occurred; and 14% said an employee was caught selling drugs in the workplace. 

"Employers must understand that the most dangerously misused drug today may be sitting in employees' medicine cabinets," Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, said in a statement. "Even when they are taken as prescribed, prescription drugs and opioids can impair workers and create hazards on the job. We hope these findings prompt employers to take the lead on this emerging issue so that workplaces can be as safe as possible." 

Researchers surveyed 501 human resources individuals whose companies employ more than 50 workers, finding that 13% of them feel confident their business is prepared to handle drug use issues. The survey also found that 71% of employer feels drug misuse is a problem that can be treated but 65% also say it is a fireable offense.