As the United States federal government has made their drug testing requirements stricter over the past years, substance testing for employees such as those working in safety transportation positions like pilots, train operators and airplane mechanics has uncovered that many of these employees, who have already been suspected of illicit heroin and prescription drug use, are using on the job and the rates are growing and has even doubled. Oral fluid or saliva drug tests conducted on the employee workforce in the first six months of 2010 has shown that the heroin marker that had a rate of 0.04% had shown a huge increase over 0.008% that has been recorded through urinalysis. In the latter six months of 2010, after some new federal standards came into effect, the heroin marker was found to be discovered in the results of more than 20% more workers.

While this is still a generally low incidence rate, it is a disquieting thought to know that those who are in positions of holding public safety roles are testing positive for heroin and other prescription drugs. In addition to the increase of use of heroin, there has been a dramatic increase of use of opiates such as oxycmorphone and oxycodone, known more commonly as Vicodin and Oxycontin. Drug testing results show increases of 18% between 2008 and 2009 and an increase of 40% since 2005.

The problem with workplace drug use is the accidents that are caused by negligence from being intoxicated and high, which can become costly for the company. Post-accident workplace drug tests are 400% more likely to reveal drug use in employees than with prescreening, which may suggest the idea that the use of substances has played a role in the causing of such accidents. You might be curious as to why some people decide to come to work under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances, but workplace stress plays a role in the higher levels of substance abuse, possibly being related to issues of job insecurity or working longer shifts. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has said that there are around 20.3 million adults who have substance use disorders and about 75% of them are employed.

While there are often Employee Assistance Programs that are available for employees to utilize to get help, such as with drug and alcohol counseling, there seems to be a reluctance for employees to use these services for fear of it being not confidential and there is a fear of losing ones job, if stepping up and admitting to drug use, especially jobs where public safety or safety sensitive jobs are concerned. While there is a belief that it can be risky to reach out to these Employee Assistance Programs, these benefits are designed to be confidential and are managed by those who reveal nothing to employers, and even billing for these services are anonymous. Drug testing programs are discovering much about drug use in the workplace and insight about the habits of users. Employers should let their employees know about their EAPs and maybe the rates of workplace drug use might decrease, with more users looking for solutions with their work benefit programs.