Prescription Drug Use: A Growing Problem for Employers

Prescription Drug Use: A Growing Problem for Employers

By Jennifer Gladstone


Since the 1990’s, the percentage of U.S. workers testing positive for illegal drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine has decreased significantly.  Unfortunately, workplace drug screening statistics now indicate that more employees than ever are testing positive for prescription drugs. 

A study by Quest Diagnostics shows the use of Vicodin is up 172% since 2002.  Medications like Adderall, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone are showing up on tests 71% more today than they did just ten years ago.  That means many of your workers might be high while on the job, even if they’ve never touched an illegal drug.

So, is the employee using these drugs legally?  Do they have a prescription from their doctor? Even if the answers are yes, there is still tremendous liability for the employer because even prescription drug use can have side effects like dizziness, sleepiness, trouble operating motor vehicles and other dangerous behaviors.

The fight to protect your workers and customers from an employee impaired by prescription medications can be a little more difficult than dealing with those using illegal drugs.  On-going random employee drug testing can be a valuable asset for those operating dangerous equipment or dealing with sensitive information. It’s also important for managers to be aware of their employees’ behavior and note anything unusual, while company leadership should create a clear policy to deal with this alarming trend.




Employment Background Investigations is a technology driven leader in domestic and global pre-employment background checks, drug testing, occupational health screening and I-9 compliance. We specialize in development, implementation and management of customized employment screening programs for large and multi-national clients. We are dedicated to information security.  EBI is the only NAPBS Accredited background screening company to hold both an ISO 27001:2005 certification for information security and an ISO 9001:2008 certification for Quality Management.

All content provided by EBI is published for the convenience of its readers and should never be deemed as legal guidance or advice.  Always consult your legal counsel for specific advice on state laws and industry regulations.

About the Author

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

One thought on “Prescription Drug Use: A Growing Problem for Employers

  1. Unfortunately these statistics are real and are alarming! I would be interested in learning what policies regarding use of prescription drugs by employees have been put in place that protect both the employer AND employee required to take prescriptions under direction of their medical doctor in the course of their work day. I am an employer.

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