Substance Abuse in the Workplace

In January 2013, PolEcon Research issued its report of a study commissioned by the advocacy group, New Futures, whose stated goal is to “reduce alcohol and other drug problems in New Hampshire.” The research findings were startling to many. In addition to increases in the numbers of employees whose lives are affected by alcoholism, the state has seen large increases in those abusing prescription medications. New Hampshire has the second highest level in the US of young adults age 18-25 who report abusing prescription pain relievers (16.78% vs. 11.94%). Nationally, there was a 40% increase in employees testing positive for prescription narcotic use between 2005 and 2009. In 2010 Oxycodone became the second most abused drug after alcohol of those entering state funded substance abuse treatment. The fact is that substance abuse affects individuals in all walks of life and in all age groups, and it affects not only those who are abusing but also their families, friends and co-workers. It is important for employers to take a proactive approach to substance abuse in order to safeguard their businesses and to reduce legal risk. There is also clearly a need to balance the rights of the impaired employee with the best interests of the company and its other workers.

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