Drug Deaths on the Rise: Why Drug Testing Saves Lives

Drug Deaths on the Rise: Why Drug Testing Saves Lives

By Tricia O'Connor

Deaths from drug overdoses soared last year, sending a sobering reminder to employers about the importance of drug testing.

Experts blame the pandemic’s toll and a rise in the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Workplace drug testing has long played a critical role in discouraging illegal drug abuse among employees. But since many people have shifted to work from home roles, it’s getting increasingly difficult for employers to keep their businesses drug-free.

Here, we explore how drug use is linked to many horrible challenges for employers and employees, and discuss some effective drug testing methods to help keep employees safe at work and at home.

Drugs Linked to Record Number of Deaths

Drug Testing with EBI

More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020. That’s a 30% increase from the previous year. The leading cause of overdose deaths was from opioids, specifically, illegal fentanyl.

Studies show substance abuse increases dramatically during a national crisis and remains at elevated levels for months afterward. Recent statistics estimate that 14.8 million Americans use illegal drugs, and 70 percent of them are employed. Researchers say the disruption of daily life has hit those who struggle with substance abuse hard. The pandemic added stress and anxiety to many people’s lives. And, many drug treatment facilities were closed, while the drugs themselves were still readily available.

Vermont had the largest increase in drug overdose deaths with 57.6%, followed by Kentucky with 53.7%, and California with 45.9%.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, leader of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, says the shift from in-person care has contributed to the rise in substance abuse-related health issues.

Remote Work Linked to Drug Use

Just as the shift from in-person care is linked to increased substance abuse issues, so is the connection between remote work and rising drug and alcohol use.

A report from Quest Diagnostics shows 1 in 3 Americans are more like to drink alcohol during working hours while working from home. Thirty-six percent of men and 27% of women admit to drinking on the clock.

The U.S. Department of Labor and the National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that employees who suffer from drug or alcohol dependency are nearly three times more likely to either cause or personally experience an injury-related absence from work.

Drug Use Linked to Higher Employer Costs

Quit Genius, billed as the world’s first digital substance abuse clinic, reports lost productivity because of a substance abuse disorder costs employers $25.5 billion overall annually. Employees with multiple addictions can cost employers between $16,000 – $21,000 annually, almost three times more than those with no underlying drug or alcohol issues.

Missed days of work and productivity also add up when employees have substance use issues. Workers with a substance abuse disorder miss nearly three work weeks per year for illness, injury, or reasons other than vacations and holidays, compared to 10.5 days for workers without drug or alcohol issues.

Drug Testing Linked to Reduced Employer Costs

It’s been reported that each employee who recovers from a substance abuse disorder saves a company more than $3,200 per year. Evidence suggests pre-employment drug testing will result in:

  • Reduced turnover
  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Compliance with state or federal regulations
  • Lower workman’s compensation costs
  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Improved workplace safety
  • Better identification of, and referral for, employees with drug or alcohol struggles

Addiction specialists also say employees are more likely to undergo treatment if it is suggested by an employer.

And one of the best ways to determine if an employee is struggling with a substance abuse issue is to conduct pre-employment drug testing and continue routine testing in accordance with your business’s drug-free workplace plans.

Drug Testing Linked to Safer Remote Employees

Because the lines of acceptable behavior may have become blurred while working from home, employers might want to consider revising their drug testing policy to include screening remote workers.

If you’re continuing remote work for some employees in conjunction with recalling some workers to the office, you may want to draft or include information prohibiting the use of drugs and alcohol while working from home. That should clear up any confusion and set an expectation for all employees, regardless of where they perform their duties.

Employers who are not regulated by the U.S. Dept of Transportation (DOT) can dictate how to manage and run a drug testing program based on their needs. Many established companies have a defined drug testing policy. The timing and frequency are the employers’ choice, as is the type of testing. They can choose to test urine, oral fluid, hair, or a combination of the three after considering applicable legal regulations and considerations.

We know figuring out what types of drug testing methods are best for your company is hard, especially now, when you have employees working from home and substance abuse rates and deaths are skyrocketing.

We’ve compiled a list of additional EBI resources that should point you in the right direction:

Smarter Drug Testing Linked with EBI

Medical and addiction experts will need to monitor the rates of substance abuse and drug overdose deaths as this pandemic continues, just as employers will need to monitor their employees to ensure workplaces are healthy and safe.

As one of only nine drug screening providers to earn a coveted Consortium/Third-Party Administrator accreditation, EBI has one of the most compliant DOT drug testing solutions, and one of the best non-DOT drug screening platforms in the industry. Our drug screening platform enables you to manage every aspect of your drug screening program from a single interface. All specimen types are supported (urine, hair, blood, oral fluid), and we have the largest self-managed network with over 15,000 locations.

You don’t have to wait until something tragic happens before improving your drug testing program. And you don’t have to do it alone. EBI is here to help. Contact one of our experts today.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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