By Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics
Heroin use in the workplace has increased in recent years. Drug use in the workplace has declined overall in the last few years as employers increasingly have drug policies and programs in place. Shockingly, however, as drug use overall decreases, the use of particular drugs have increased. One of those drugs is heroin.
Heroin Use in the Workplace: Examining the Transportation Industry
The Rise in Heroin Use Among Employees
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, “In areas across the country ravaged by soaring use of opioid drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers, many employers are grappling with the effects on the labor force, from lower productivity to higher turnover. The problems have taken a financial toll on companies and threaten to crimp local economic growth.”
Perhaps some of the distress about the increase in heroin among employees comes from the extreme impairments heroin causes. An employer does not want the liability of an employee on heroin especially if they are operating heavy machinery.
Heroin is an extremely addictive drug that has physical effects such as:
- Reduced mental functioning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slowed heart rate and low body temperature
Heroin Use Among Transportation Employees
In 2010 the Department of Transportation tightened its drug testing requirements and expanded drug testing to a wider spectrum of transportation workers. Transportation workers such as pilots, train operators and airplane mechanics who had previously passed drug tests began to fail under the new guidelines. One of drugs that spiked under the DOT’s new regulations was heroin. The number of employees testing positive for heroin markers showed a 20 percent increase in less than a year.
While the percentage of employees in transportation jobs who tested positive for heroin, is still relatively low, this crack down by the DOT helped to ensure that those in public safety roles who secure aircrafts or operate trains aren’t on heroin.
More recently, in July, a JetBlue airline pilot was arrested by Boston police and charged with possession of heroin and then released. While the pilot did not test positive for heroin, he did have it in his possession at the time. This became a high profile case because many people, especially those with a fear of flying need to be able to trust that their pilots are functioning at full capacity. A pilot with heroin in their system is a huge public danger and a liability to their employer.
While we like to think that heroin use is reserved for “druggies on the street,” the reality is that heroin addiction affects people of all professions and lifestyles. “Between 2004 and 2008, 37% of the 1,353 pilots who died in aviation accidents tested positive for drugs,” according to The Daily Beast. Even 1 is too many, but 37% is huge.
As the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration continue to improve measures in monitoring those who have had substance abuse problems and enforce drug testing, they will remove the threats from our planes, trains and trucks.
What Can Employers and Administrators Learn From This?
Have you recently examined your drug testing program requirements? Are there employees who use drugs who are slipping under the radar? Should you expand your drug testing policies to more workers? These are questions that you should constantly ask yourself if you have a drug testing program in place.
If you do not have a program at all, it may be time to decrease liability and expenses that come with employees who have substance abuse problems. Creating drug testing programs and employee assistance programs will help to curb substance abuse issues in the workplace. With the spikes in heroin use in, not only the transportation industry, but the workplace in general, it is important that you are testing employees for heroin.
For more information, download the FREE handy guide published by uVera Diagnostics, Drug Testing in the Business World. What Every Company Needs to Know.
uVera Diagnostics is a drug testing company with supplies that comply with Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. uVera Diagnostics provides FDA approved and CLIA waived drug tests for employers and at-home drug testing. Click here to browse drug tests that test for heroin and other drugs. Call uVera Diagnostics at 1-866-242-5930.
To learn more about drug testing employees read the blog “Drug Testing 101: What Do We Really Know?” and to learn more about drug testing policies read the blog “Drug Testing Employees—Legal Considerations.”
Posted by Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics and Co-designer and Developer of the CR3 split-sample drug test cup. Bill has 25 years in sales management and marketing and is a 10 year veteran of the drug testing industry. As a parent and co-worker, Bill’s energy is focused on drug testing on every level. Addiction is all around us in alcohol, prescriptions and street drugs, and that is a constant reminder a drug free society starts with each and every one of us.
For more information on drug testing, click here or call 1-866-242-5930.
This information is meant for awareness and education purposes only. Any medical or life saving advice should come from experts. Always consult with your physician about any and all drugs.
Sources: fortune.com, hireright.com, thefix.com, thedailybeast.com, wsj.com
Photos courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.com by David Castillo Dominici (spilled drugs), potowizard (airplane)