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August 1991, Vol. 114, No. 8
Drug and alcohol use at work
Philip Gleason, Jonathan Veum, and Michael Pergamit
The incidence of drug use on the job among U.S. workers aged 19 to 27 was 7.0 percent in 1984, according to data from the 1984 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. White men aged 19 to 23 reported the highest incidence of workplace drug use. Reported drug use is higher among men than women, among whites than minorities, and among workers aged 19 to 23 than those aged 24 to 27. Blue-collar workers have higher rates of drug use than white-collar workers. Also, drug use is most common among young workers in entertainment/recreation and construction industries, and least common among those in professional services and public administration industries. When each industry is classified by occupation, data show that transportation industry operatives have a relatively high rate of workplace drug use. This is notable in light of recent tragic accidents in the transportation industry attributed to the use of drugs.
Drug and alcohol use in the workplace has been a particular concern to employers and consumers who fear that workers who engage in this type of activity on the job are less productive, more likely to steal, and more likely to cause accidents than workers who do not use drugs or drink on the job. For these reasons, drug use in the workplace cost employers an estimated $16.4 billion in 1981.1
In response to this problem, a large number of firms have developed Employee Assistance Programs which attempt to identify and provide treatment to workers with drug and alcohol problems. These programs have become more prevalent; the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 1988, 30 percent of all workers had access to Employee Assistance Programs. Also, approximately 20 percent of all workers were employed by firms which had drug testing policies. 2
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1991 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 See The Study on Economic Costs to Society of Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Disorders (North Carolina Research Triangle Institute, 1981).
2 See Survey of Employer Antidrug Programs, Report 760 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
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