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Drugs and the Workplace: An Overview

Drug Use in the Workforce

Current employment status was highly correlated with rates of illicit drug use in 2002. An estimated 17.4 percent of unemployed adults aged 18 or older were current illicit drug users compared with 8.2 percent of those employed full time and 10.5 percent of those employed part time. Of the 16.6 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2002, 12.4 million (74.6 percent) were employed either full or part time. Most binge and heavy alcohol users were employed. Among the 51.1 million adult binge drinkers in 2002, 40.8 million (80 percent) were employed either full or part time. Similarly, 12 million (79 percent) of the 15.2 million adult heavy drinkers were employed.1

Drug Use by Industry

In 2000, workers in the construction and mining industries reported the highest rates of past month heavy alcohol use (15.7 percent) and past month illicit drugs use (12.3 percent) while workers in professional services and in government had the lowest rates. This pattern is partially explained by the higher concentration of males in the construction and mining industries, who have reported higher rates. Workers in wholesale and retail industries also reported high rates of past month illicit drug use (10.8 percent) and past year dependence or abuse of alcohol (10.5 percent).2

Drug Use Effects on Performance

A 2000 SAMHSA study revealed that workers who reported past month illicit drug use were more likely than those who did not report such use to say that: they had more than three employers in the past year (5.7 percent vs. 2.3 percent), they had missed work for more than two days in the past month due to illness or injury (11.6 percent vs. 6.5 percent), and they had skipped work more than two days in the past month (4.4 percent vs. 1.6 percent).3

Drug-Free Workplace Policies

Employees in three of four occupations reporting significantly lower rates of current drug use and heavy drinking (protective services; extraction and precision productions; electronic equipment assemblers; and administrative support) were employed in those occupations identified with the highest rates of drug information and policies in the workplace.4

Working Youth

About one-half of young adults ages 16-17, work during the year. Those working more than 20 hours per week are at high risk for substance abuse and injury.5 The youth labor force (aged 16 to 24) is projected to increase by 3.4 million between 2000 and 2010, more than 10 times the increase of the 1980–90 period.6

Drug Use Among Unemployed Adults

The rate of drug use was higher among unemployed persons compared with those from other employment groups. In 2002, 17.4 percent of unemployed adults (18 and over) reported current drug use. Binge and heavy alcohol use rates were higher for unemployed persons (34.7 and 13.3 percent, respectively, for binge and heavy use) than for full-time employed persons (29.0 and 8.4 percent, respectively).7


Sources

1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, September 2003.

2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The NHSDA Report: Substance Use, Dependence or Abuse among Full-Time Workers, September 2002.

3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The NHSDA Report: Substance Use, Dependence or Abuse among Full-Time Workers, September 2002.

4 Ibid.

5 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Workplace Managed Care by Fax, Volume 1, Issue 8: Protecting Youth at Work, July 1998.

6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor force projections to 2010: steady growth and changing composition, November 2001.

7 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, September 2003.


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Last Updated: March 22, 2004



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