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The President's
National Drug Control Strategy

February 2007

Chapter I:  Stopping Drug Use Before It Starts—Education and Community Action

“In recent years, America has become a more hopeful Nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.

These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation—a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment. Government has played a role. Wise policies, such as welfare reform and drug education and support for abstinence and adoption have made a difference in the character of our country. And everyone here tonight, Democrat and Republican, has a right to be proud of this record.”

President George W. Bush
State of the Union Address
January 30, 2006

In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush noted that government has played a role in bringing about a “revolution of conscience” in this country by establishing policies that promote personal responsibility. Indeed, at the heart of the success in reducing drug use is a change in perceptions about not only the acceptability of using illicit substances, but also the need to take responsibility for one’s actions. These changes take place at the individual, family, and community levels, and much of our prevention and intervention strategy therefore focuses on changing behaviors and norms.

Trends in cigarette, illicit drug, and alcohol use over time demonstrate that substance use is malleable, and that it follows public perceptions of the acceptability and harmful consequences of substances. These trends also show that government can play an important role in helping the public choose healthier lifestyles. From 1964 onward, the Surgeon General issued multiple reports on the health consequences of smoking. As figure 13 shows, a steady decline in cigarette smoking coincided with increased public awareness. Likewise, when President Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971, use lowered before spiking again later that decade as popular culture embraced drug use. Subsequently, ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana for medical use in the late 1990s coincided with a rise in use.

Trends in alcohol use show that the legal availability of alcohol, particularly to young people, has an impact on use rates. Although unpopular, Prohibition, established in 1919 and repealed in 1933, had a significant impact on the volume of consumption. Lowering the drinking age in the early 1970s was accompanied by increases in consumption, while alcohol consumption and alcohol-related fatalities showed marked declines after 1987, when most states had increased the drinking age to 21.

Data over time show that baby-boomers experienced some of the highest prevalence rates of illicit drug use during their youth. Rates of use among this group, now largely within the 50-to 59-year-old age category, remain unexpectedly high as its members continue to age. This trend underscores not only the importance of early identification and referral for treatment in order to break the cycle of addiction, but more importantly, the need for effective drug prevention to help young people avoid initiating drug use. For some, behaviors developed in youth can persist for decades. Furthermore, the adult population has proven to be more resistant to changes in use rates. Thus baby boomers—the generation that was associated with high rates of drug use 30-40 years ago—continue to display elevated rates of use to this day.

Figure 13. Trends in Cigarette, Illicit Drug, and Alcohol Abuse

<Click here for larger image>

A Focus on Young People

It is therefore good news that today’s young people are making better and healthier decisions. With movies, music, and other forms of pop culture glorifying substance abuse, and with some sports celebrities using steroids, American families face an uphill battle in teaching young people to avoid using drugs. Yet young people have shown they can resist the barrage of messages and reject drugs.

Young people feel the greatest pressure to use drugs primarily from their peers. Unfortunately, this pressure is often reinforced through popular culture, creating the mistaken belief that “everyone is doing it” and that drug use is cool and free of consequences. This “social norm” effect creates the mistaken belief among some young people—and sometimes even their parents—that more kids use drugs than actually do. In the past year, the majority of 12-to 17-year-olds talked at least once with one or more parents about the dangers of substance abuse. These discussions were helpful: rates of current substance use were lower for youths who did talk with parents than for those who did not.

Part of what may account for the decline in drug use among youth is an increased awareness of the dangers of drugs. Survey data show that drug use is inversely correlated with the perception of the harmful effects of drugs. The better young people understand the risks of drug use, the more likely they are to choose not to use drugs. Clearly, parental involvement, education, and community action are key to preventing youth drug use.

It is important for parents, schools, coaches, and other people with influence over young people to consistently send the message that drug use is harmful and that it is an unwise decision. Communities must support successful drug-free efforts by young people and spread positive messages about rejecting drug use. The Administration has sought to change the perceptions of drug use in a number of ways, from supporting community coalitions to arming parents and community leaders with information to help them discuss the harmful effects of drugs with their children.

ONDCP’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign uses the power of media to “unsell” the idea of drug use to America’s teens. Media can widely disseminate clear, consistent, and credible messages to parents and communities as well as to teens directly. By using television, radio, print, online, and out-of-home communications, the Media Campaign can increase perceptions of the harm of drug use and of social disapproval.

The Media Campaign targets the most vulnerable population, those age 12-17, with the key audience being 14-to 16-year-olds. The teen brand Above the In?uence inspires teens to reject negative in?uences, speci?cally drug use, by appealing to their senses of individuality and independence.

Because teens report receiving far more prodrug messages than antidrug messages, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign works to refute myths and counter prodrug messages. Mixed messages come from many sources in teens’ lives: media coverage and discussions of “medical marijuana,” decriminalization efforts, popular culture such as movies and music, and the Internet. The growing number of social networking sites and blogs, along with the presence of e-mail spam promoting illegal online pharmacies, provide teens with increasing exposure to prodrug information and misinformation about the consequences of using drugs.

Countering these cultural challenges requires a targeted approach that effectively leverages the funds spent. To achieve this, the Media Campaign uses the same tools to evaluate the effectiveness of its messages that the private sector uses, such as testing messages with target audiences. The Media Campaign is the Nation’s most visible drug prevention effort. It focuses attention on the problem of drug use and supports parents, caregivers, and communities in their prevention efforts. It directly reaches teens, motivating them to live Above the Influence of drugs.

Helping America’s Youth

In his 2005 State of the Union Address, President Bush announced a broad effort to engage all Americans in helping young people become healthy adults and asked First Lady Laura Bush to lead this important effort, which became known as the Helping America’s Youth initiative. Helping America’s Youth is a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the challenges facing our youth, particularly at-risk boys, and to motivate caring adults to connect with youth in three key areas: family, school, and community.

Mrs. Bush, building upon the success of the White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth at Howard University in the fall of 2005, began working with State and local partners to host regional conferences throughout the United States in 2006. The two regional conferences, held in Indianapolis and Denver, provided training for community leaders and a speaker series on the current status of America’s youth and successful methods for helping to make a difference in their lives. Mrs. Bush also traveled to many parts of the country to meet with young people and visit schools, after-school programs, and youth courts. What these programs all demonstrated is that adults can have the greatest effect on young people by caring for them, increasing their social connections, and helping them reach their full potential.

A new resource was also launched: the Helping America’s Youth Web site, The site is a one-stop center for information about the initiative, publications, and resources for adults; video footage of previous conferences; and access to an on-line planning tool, the Community Guide to Helping America’s Youth. The Community Guide helps communities form successful partnerships, assess their needs and resources, and link them to effective programs to help youth in their neighborhoods.

Prevention in Action: Partnerships Across the Country

Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, ONDCP works with partners across the country to promote local drug prevention strategies. Understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to protecting youth and strengthening communities to prevent drug use, ONDCP promotes community solutions to community problems.

By supporting the development of local drug-free community coalitions, the Administration is working to achieve long-term sustainable success in preventing drug use by youth and enlisting parents in achieving these goals. These coalitions bring together community leaders; professionals in health care, law enforcement, and education; the clergy; and others to provide grassroots solutions to substance abuse. Coalitions work to identify local drug problems and then establish partnerships to bring the community together to combat them. Some communities may find that prescription drug abuse is on the rise, while others may target marijuana use. The flexibility and locally driven nature of community coalitions allow a range of successful responses to local problems.

The Administration supports many of these coalitions by providing $90 million in the FY 2008 Budget through the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) program. This program aims to mobilize key sectors of the community to work together toward a common goal of reducing youth substance use.

Each coalition funded through the DFC program identifies local problems and works with local leaders to develop and implement solutions unique to the problems identified in each community. As part of the qualification for DFC funding, each community must provide a dollar-for-dollar match to the $100,000/ year in Federal funds provided through DFC. This community-level commitment to drug prevention helps ensure sustainability of local prevention programming far beyond the 5-year Federal funding cycle.

Figure 14. Drug-Free Communities Support Program Grantees, FY 2006

Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2007. <Click here for larger image>

As the result of an increase in community-wide environmental activities and changes within DFC communities, successful coalitions may now qualify to “mentor” new and emerging community groups to help them replicate the successes seen by existing DFC communities in reducing youth drug use.

Upper Bucks Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Coalition

By focusing on positive youth development, supporting programs, and strengthening community relationships, the Upper Bucks Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Coalition has made significant progress in reducing youth substance use. Since 2004, the Upper Bucks Coalition, a Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grantee in Pennsylvania, has seen a 15 percent reduction in tobacco use among 12th graders, a 5 percent decrease in alcohol use among 10th graders, and a 44 percent reduction in tobacco use among 8th graders. The coalition has involved representatives from throughout the community to work collectively to implement successful drug prevention strategies.

This year, the coalition launched a social norms marketing campaign in one middle school and three high schools. The goal of the campaign is to inform youth and parents that the majority of teenagers in Upper Bucks choose not to drink. In fact, a survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders combined found that two out of three had not used alcohol in the last 30 days. The social norms campaign addresses the reality that the majority of youth over estimate how many of their peers engage in underage drinking. The coalition recruited 65 youth from 3 high schools to form what they call the “Street Team” to help plan and implement the project. Additionally, local businesses donated services and products to the campaign.

The students launched the first phase of the campaign in the opening weeks of the school year by passing out thousands of small green buttons with the letters “OMG.” OMG is commonly used by youth in electronic text messaging as an expression of surprise or joy or as a call to pay attention. The buttons developed a buzz of curiosity in the school. In phase two of the campaign, the students distributed 300 T-shirts and 5,000 static cling decals with the phrase “2outta3.” Finally, the entire message was revealed through the dissemination of 1,150 T-shirts and 5,000 silicone wrist bands with the message, “2outta3 Don’t Drink.” To reinforce the message, the coalition has printed news releases, newspaper articles, and newsletters. Research has shown that the strategy of using a social norms message is effective in reducing the rate of underage drinking and changing the perceptions of youth and adults.

The Upper Bucks Coalition has also involved youth sports leagues in their efforts to reduce substance use. Local coaches have attended Positive Coaching Alliance workshops called Double Goal Coach. The workshops are designed to train coaches of youth ages 8–18 on integrating positive youth development strategies as part of their coaching. Targeting this profession is important because youth sports organizations are second only to educational institutions as the segment of a community that can impact youth development.

Additionally, many youth drop out of organized sports around the age of 12, which coincidentally is the same time many young people begin to use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. By teaching coaches to mentor and lead young people more effectively, the coalition is increasing the likelihood that this effort will decrease youth risk factors and increase protective factors in the Upper Bucks community.

The business community has taken a lead in the Upper Bucks coalition. US Restaurants, the area Burger King franchisee, has raised more than $3 million since 1985 in support of Project CARE, a coalition founding member. Since US Restaurants learned that youth were selling drugs outside of the Quakertown Burger King in the mid-1980s, Burger King Restaurants in the area have been selling fund-raising coupon sheets. The president of the restaurant chain realized he had to get involved, and the company became committed to supporting Project CARE. Project CARE has trained more than 20,000 adults working with young people in schools and communities and has awarded higher education scholarships to students formerly in crisis because of alcohol and other drug or mental health issues.

Lee Rush, the Upper Bucks Coalition Community Organizer, says that “the coalition strategy is working in their community. Youth substance use is declining, a result of the support and collaboration with area schools, youth-serving organizations, faith-based and community organizations, government agencies, business partners, parents, youth, and community members. Through these partnerships, the community has worked together to support youth.”

Join Together Northern Nevada Mentoring Coalition

The DFC Mentoring Program is an effort to enhance the number and quality of local Drug-Free Community Coalitions through the assistance of capable, experienced coalitions. DFC Mentoring Program grantees use their experience and success in changing the community environment to support and encourage the development of new, self-supporting drug-free community coalitions to meet the goals of the DFC program. Join Together Northern Nevada (JTNN) is using its expertise as well as the expertise of several other coalitions throughout the State of Nevada to build new coalitions in five Spanish-speaking communities in the State.

JTNN understood the needs of Nevada’s Hispanic community in its fight against drug use, specifically relating to alcohol and methamphetamine. Having successfully built a coalition in the Reno area to reduce substance use, JTNN staff felt they could assist other communities in addressing their drug use challenges by applying the lessons learned in establishing their successful effort in Reno. Through the DFC Mentoring Program, JTNN recruited other established community coalitions and approached five Spanish-speaking communities with an offer to help them build community coalitions. The combined communities cover an area of 17,362 square miles. A total of 424,112 persons of Hispanic descent reside in this target area, more than 100,000 are under age 18. The Project Director works with each of the coalitions to set up individualized strategies to engage the Hispanic community.

Rural Nevada has unique challenges in developing community coalitions among the Spanish-speaking population. Because many of the Hispanic residents are migrant workers, they are often moving throughout the area. Therefore, Carson City, Lyon, Storey, and Douglas Counties have joined together to develop a multicounty coalition. There is now cross coordination between counties, and Hispanic leaders are engaged in several areas, including the creation of continuity between service delivery systems in each community.

The mentoring project in Nevada is successfully engaging a population that is at risk and traditionally underserved. Through their efforts, five communities are now building coalitions, assessing their needs and resources, and developing prevention plans that will ultimately change the community environment and potentially save lives.

Major Cities and Critical Areas Drug Initiative

A key role that ONDCP plays is to bring people together and provide direction in fighting drug abuse in our Nation. ONDCP launched the Major Cities and Critical Areas Drug Initiative to coordinate the efforts of communities to combat drug abuse in the areas most in need. Drug use harms communities everywhere, but America’s large cities are particularly hard hit. Targeting substance abuse in these cities can bring about a measurable decline in the Nation’s drug problem.

Through this initiative, ONDCP directly engages with local officials and concerned citizens in America’s major cities and in other local areas where there are emerging drug threats. The initiative allows ONDCP to work with the leadership of the targeted sites in the areas of drug prevention, drug treatment, and public safety to coordinate efforts and disseminate best practices in those areas. Additionally, ONDCP works with localities to determine the extent of illicit drug use and to determine the Federal, State and local resources assigned to the task of reducing use. Through this initiative, ONDCP is serving as a catalyst for multisector partnerships that leverage existing resources more effectively in each site. The initiative encourages improved data collection and utilizes data to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and practices that impact the drug problem at the local level. ONDCP is facilitating the development of local comprehensive strategies to address the continuum of substance abuse issues.

The goal of the initiative is to work with local leadership to reduce both domestic demand and supply. To this end, ONDCP concentrates on the following targets: local and regional drug market disruption; strategic utilization of datasets from the areas of prevention, treatment, and enforcement; establishment of effective community prevention coalitions; regular and ongoing evaluations of effort with local officials; drug courts; development and utilization of local data to respond to drug threats; student drug testing; coordinated treatment systems using SBIRT; and strategic prevention messaging in the media.

In the 3 years since the start of the Major Cities and Critical Areas Drug Initiative, there have been important achievements in developing better approaches to reducing drug use. Miami, Baltimore, Denver, Washington, DC, Detroit, and Orlando have created city drug strategies. Additionally, ONDCP is working with many other large cities, including Portland and Atlanta, to develop local strategies. In the last year, ONDCP has been helping to bring SBIRT programs to cities across the country. Several cities currently have existing programs, including Houston, Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, and Denver.

In developing strategies, cities can learn valuable lessons from one another. Frequently, one city’s strategy for combating drug use holds promise for other cities facing similar problems. To assist cities in learning best practices, ONDCP published Cities Without Drugs: The Major Cities Guide to Reducing Substance Abuse in Your Community.

Additionally, ONDCP has facilitated city-to-city dialog, training, and technical assistance. ONDCP has also brokered improved relationships with Federal partners using diverse venues including summits, video and audio teleconferences, and leadership meetings. ONDCP has worked in conjunction with the US Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities to convene and facilitate minisummits for mayors and their policy staff. Representatives from several cities have been linked via teleconferences on a variety of issues relating to the drug problem, including prostitution and addiction, community health and epidemiology, building better community coalitions, and screening for drug use in health settings. Other topics have included Prisoner Reentry programs and 211 telephone information systems. Like dialing 411, 211 connects the caller to information on community and government services.

A new focus for this initiative is emerging or critical threats either in specific geographic areas such as Tribal Lands or on priority issues, such as when heroin laced with the drug fentanyl cropped up in northern cities like Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia in the summer of 2006. ONDCP rapidly responded by organizing a Fentanyl Forum in Philadelphia to educate community leaders around the country on this emerging threat. By tracking data to identify emerging trends and threats, ONDCP is able to be a proactive partner with State and local authorities to alert people and address these threats in a timely manner.

ONDCP also works to support areas of the country that are particularly hard hit by the scourge of drugs. The Major Cities and Critical Areas Drug Initiative, described in detail in the following highlighted section, seeks to facilitate coordination among Federal, State and local authorities to combat drug use. This initiative builds on existing programs like Drug-Free Communities in order to leverage the greatest impact from Federal, State and local resources dedicated to these areas.

Drug Testing: Pushing Back in Our Schools and Workplaces

Drug prevention efforts have traditionally focused on education and community action to encourage rejection of drug use. At the community level these are important messages for youth to receive. We also know that drug use is usually accompanied by communication barriers and denial with parents and loved ones. Recognizing the problem, communities across the country are exploring measures to help reduce drug use in their schools.

A key tool to address this problem is student drug testing. In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court broadened the authority of public schools to test students for illegal drug use if they engage in extracurricular activities. This decision made a powerful, nonpunitive tool available to any school concerned about student drug use.

The Bush Administration has made drug testing a priority and has embarked on a student drug testing initiative to provide resources for communities across the country that want to test students. Implementing a program is a local decision and is not linked to Federal education funding. Currently, there are more than 480 federally funded programs in the Nation, and many others supported by community funds.

Student drug testing serves a dual purpose: it can prevent drug use while also helping identify students who need help. Student drug testing can prevent drug use because it gives students an “out:” if they want to participate in extracurricular activities, they know they will be subject to a test and can use potential testing as an excuse to refuse drugs when approached by a peer.

Furthermore, drug testing can help create a culture of disapproval toward drugs in schools. It also helps prepare students for a job market that often requires random drug testing for employees. Airline pilots, transportation workers, U.S. military personnel, and many others are subject to random testing. However, unlike workplace testing, which can include severe sanctions, student testing is not punitive and cannot be used for referral to law enforcement or affect the student’s progress in academic programs. Instead, the program aims to prevent use in the first place, help users get the help they need, and send a message that drug use is unacceptable.

Drug Testing in Oceanside, California Helps Students Say “No” to Drugs

In California’s Oceanside Unified School District, the Board of Education recognized that student athletes who are under the influence of drugs may endanger themselves or others on the playing field. In 1997, Oceanside implemented a mandatory random drug testing program for all student athletes after students began to express concern over the increase in drug use by their peers. The district formed a task force made up of representatives from the community, including students, parents, coaches, athletic directors, counselors, and administrators. The group met for 8 months to develop policy and procedures to implement a mandatory random drug testing program for student athletes.

In the wake of $21 million in budget cuts, the district reluctantly eliminated the program in the 2004-2005 school year. Athletic directors and high school principals again noted a rise in drug use among students and urged the school system administration to reevaluate their decision. The district reinstated a minimal drug testing program for the 2005-2006 school year using $11,200 with a plan to test about 14 students per week.

In October 2005, the district received grant funding in the amount of $558,689 (over a 3 year funding cycle) from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. The grant allowed the district to reinstate a more comprehensive drug testing program and evaluation. The population served by the current grant includes about 969 student athletes at El Camino High School and 436 student athletes at Oceanside High School.

An average of 40 student athletes from Oceanside and El Camino High schools are tested weekly for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, and alcohol. Additionally, grant funding allows the district to test roughly half of the testing population for steroids.

Very few student athletes test positive for drugs; since the program resumed in October 2005, there has only been one positive drug test. The district provides intervention services for students testing positive.

Early survey data confirm what coaches and administrators already knew: the drug testing program provides a powerful deterrent to drug use among student athletes. In May 2006, a group of El Camino High School athletes were surveyed regarding their attitudes about drug testing. Of students surveyed, more than half (52.2 percent) said that the school’s drug testing program makes it easier for them to say “no” to drugs. Nearly 70 percent of students surveyed said that they would rather have drug testing at school than sign a promise not to use drugs. An overwhelming majority of students surveyed (80.4 percent) said there were times in the past year that they would have used drugs or alcohol had it not been for the drug testing program.

Parents call the drug testing program a needed “release valve” for students who need support in saying “no” to drugs. Many even believe that student athlete drug testing programs should be expanded to all schools to keep all players safe on the field. “The drug testing program is a deterrent to kids who may be sitting on the fence in terms of deciding whether or not to use drugs or alcohol when they are offered,” said Kalae, a mother of seven, two of whom are current athletes at Oceanside High School. “The program gives athletes an “out,”and other students respect and understand their decision not to use drugs,” she added.

Superintendent Ken Noonan says the drug testing program has had numerous long- and short-term benefits for students. In addition to the immediate benefit of keeping students above the influence and safe while on the playing field, the program may keep kids from ever using drugs. “The drug testing program has a ripple effect on our students,” he said. “If it deters even one student from using drugs, our time and energy as well as federal dollars have been well spent. Perhaps we have even saved that student and their family from a lifetime of the heartache caused by drug abuse,” Noonan added.

Testing is a tried and true method of deterring drug use in America. In response to drug use among service members during deployment to Vietnam, the U.S. Army began testing in 1971. During the war, Army leadership was alarmed by reports finding that as many as 42 percent of U.S. troops in Vietnam had used opiates at least once, and that half of those individuals were reported to be physically dependent at some time. Concerned about troops endangering themselves and others while deployed in combat, and also about the potential for the drug abuse problem following them back home, the Army implemented stiff sanctions for drug use and offered an amnesty program coupled with mandatory urinalysis drug testing.

Figure 15. Student Drug Testing Sites, FY 2006

Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2007. <Click here for larger image>

In 1981, the Department of Defense began to use drug test results as grounds for removal from military service. Since that time, testing has made a significant dent in usage rates in the military. The military’s program is a highly effective and credible workplace drug testing program supported by a substantial amount of case law. Today, with service members deployed in Afghanistan, the world’s largest source of illicit opiates, less than 1 percent of those returning home have tested positive.

The private sector has recognized the adverse consequences of drugs and the potential benefit of testing. Substance abuse in the workplace can lead to increased absenteeism, higher error rates, accidents, increased need for health care, and other negative consequences. Some workplaces require preemployment testing, while others have preemployment as well as continued random testing for all employees. While any form of drug testing can contribute to a drug-free workplace, subjecting all employees to random testing helps ensure that all workers remain drug free.

The Administration supports private-sector companies and organizations by developing and disseminating materials to help employers develop drug-free workplace programs. The Working Partners Web site,, serves as a central source of news and information about alcohol-and drug-free workplaces. Among many other resources, it includes an online policy development tool and a variety of training and educational materials.

The Department of Labor has a number of initiatives to promote drug-free workplaces, including key initiatives with the mine industry, small businesses, and labor unions. To promote more programs across the country, the Department of Labor and ONDCP designated October 16–22, 2006 as Drug-Free Work Week. This outreach campaign was developed with the Drug-Free Workplace Alliance, which is made up of owner/contractor associations and labor unions. The campaign distributed Drug-Free Work Week materials, published articles, and conducted local training and educational programs about the value of drug-free workplaces.

Drug-Free Workplace: Rio Tinto Minerals

Rio Tinto Minerals—Boron Operations has roots that stretch back to 1872. Operating as U.S. Borax Inc. until early 2006, Rio Tinto Minerals currently supplies nearly half of the global demand for refined borates.

The workforce at Rio Tinto Minerals—Boron Operations is comprised of about 600 hourly workers and 170 salaried personnel. Using equipment and trucks larger than an average house, this team annually produces one million tons of borate products, sold under the 20 Mule Team Borax brand. Borates are used in hundreds of applications, including insulation fiberglass, heat-resistant glass, ceramic glazes, detergents, agricultural micronutrients, wood preservatives, and flame retardants.

Prior to the 1990s, the organization’s global borate business had very few on-the-job fatalities. However, beginning in 1991, the business began averaging one fatality every other year, reaching a total of five fatalities over the course of 7 years. This change in safety performance had a devastating effect on the company’s workforce and neighboring community. Management suspected that drug and alcohol use was a significant contributing factor.

As part of a comprehensive effort to stop this trend, Rio Tinto Minerals implemented a drug- and alcohol-free workplace program that mandated drug and alcohol testing as a condition of employment. The organization also contracted with an Employee Assistance Program to help employees and their families deal with drug and alcohol problems, and opted to offer opportunities for rehabilitation to employees in need of help.

Rio Tinto Minerals implemented several types of drug and alcohol testing: preemployment, random (not more than two tests per year), reasonable cause (a supervisor decides to have an employee tested based on observed signs and symptoms), post-accident, return to duty, and follow-up. Once the program was in place, Rio Tinto Minerals learned that drugs and alcohol were indeed being used in the workplace. Some employees admitted to being intoxicated at work, and marijuana and methamphetamine were widely used.

The program was initially resisted, especially by some hourly workers who felt it violated their privacy. Most employees wanted the drug and alcohol problem brought under control for safety’s sake, but they were not confident that the program would be fair, balanced, and trustworthy. Numerous meetings, arbitrations, and legal challenges arose.

In spite of these challenges, the Rio Tinto Minerals program prevailed, and drug testing is seldom challenged now. The organization believes that drug testing helps proactively identify those needing help, reduces accidents, improves attendance, and increases productivity. Company management also believes drug testing fosters greater awareness about drug and alcohol abuse, and that employees are taking these lessons home and sharing them with their families and friends. Today fewer employees test positive for drugs and alcohol, safety records have improved, and the majority of employees back the program.

Drug-Free Workplace: Eastern Industries, Inc.

“When a drug-free workplace policy includes only drug testing, you run the risk of losing valuable employees. By offering rehabilitation services in conjunction with drug testing, we’ve been able to keep good employees while offering them a chance to revisit their bad choices.”

—Glenn A. Fritzinger
Manager of Human Resources
Eastern Industries, Inc.

Eastern Industries, Inc. has provided a wide array of construction products and services for more than 60 years. Located in Pennsylvania, the company’s product lines include stone, hot mix asphalt, building supplies and ready-mix concrete. Eastern also manages two construction divisions and employs about 650 people during peak season.

In recent years, Eastern Industries shifted the focus of its drug-free workplace program from an approach centered on drug testing only to a policy that includes both testing and rehabilitation services. As a result, the company has been able to retain many valuable employees it might otherwise have lost. In fact, in many cases, contributing to individuals’ recovery has had the additional benefit of strengthening their loyalty and commitment to the organization.

Prior to 1996, Eastern Industries conducted random drug testing of its employees, and when workers tested positive, they generally left the company. For example, 43 employees tested positive for drug use in 1995. Thirty-five of those individuals resigned and eight were discharged, leaving Eastern Industries with a sudden loss of 4 percent of its workforce. In an industry that often struggles to find skilled workers, such drug testing outcomes posed their own challenges to the company.

Eastern quickly realized the benefits of investing in employees’ recovery. The company revisited its drug-free workplace policy and rewrote it to include rehabilitation services for employees who tested positive for drugs. Today, Eastern workers who test positive are offered the chance to enroll in a variety of inpatient and outpatient rehab programs—and return to work when they are able to do so safely because they have achieved recovery.

Managers at Eastern Industries consider the program a great success. The company is able to retain valuable, trained workers it would have lost under the old policy, and good employees are offered the opportunity to correct bad decisions and keep their jobs.

The policy also works well with some of the new, younger workers the company recruits. For example, when a young community college student in Eastern’s co-op program tested positive for drug use, the company enrolled that student in a rehabilitation program. That recruit went on to become an excellent employee who remains with the company today.

In addition to drug testing and opportunities for rehabilitation, Eastern Industries offers an Employee Assistance Program and periodic supervisor training to teach managers how to recognize impairment on the job. Employees also receive a refresher on the company’s drug-free workplace policy once a year.

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Last Updated: March 26, 2007