Drugs in Workplace Understated Crisis

When former drug czar and retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey promoted drug-free-workplace programs, employers often said they supported giving job applicants drug tests because this practice slashed recruiting, training, health care utilization and turnover costs, since chronic alcoholics and drug addicts simply did not apply. When McCaffrey told management to stay out of the room and asked employees what they thought, all he heard about was worker safety. The issue of drugs in the workplace is an understated crisis that results in $200 billion in lost productivity annually, in large part because an estimated 20 million Americans need treatment but don’t get it, said McCaffrey, who was the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 1996 to 2001. Substance abuse has big implications for employer productivity, workplace safety and stability, the economy, crime and turnover. Emphasizing that help is available, McCaffrey said HR professionals should play a key role in promoting a drug-free workplace.

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