Isn’t It Amazing That No Substance Abusing Employees Work For You – Robers Stutman
Isn’t It Amazing That No Substance Abusing Employees Work For You
If you listened to the media, you would assume that the U.S. has won the drug war. There is almost nothing in the media anymore about the drug war, only an occasional story here and there. If you listened to the last presidential campaign, you would also think that we won the drug war because the only discussion of drugs during the entire campaign was “did he or did he not inhale’ However, we are not winning the battle with drugs. We are on a significant upswing of drug use and Stutman believes this is going to continue for the next five to eight years. The U.S. has the worst drug problem by far of any country in the western world.
The U.S. accounts for about 5% of the world’s population, but in 1993, we consumed over 50% of the illegal drugs produced in the entire world. In 1993, 47% of the kids who graduated from high school had tried an illegal drug, which does not include alcohol — also an illegal drug for their age group. In 1967 (the beginning of the drug revolution in the U.S.), the avenge age of first drug use was 16½. In 1992, the avenge age of first drug use was 12½. One of the things we absolutely know about drugs is that the younger a person starts experiencing drugs, the more likely he/she is to have a long-term problem with drugs.
Where are we heading as a country in terms of drug use? In 1993, fewer junior high school students admitted that drug use is harmful to them than in any year in the previous decade. If kids don’t perceive any harm in experimenting with drugs, then experimentation will rise.
Between 1985 and 1990, we saw a significant decline in occasional drug use. In 1990, that decline leveled off, and in 1993, it increased dramatically. Our modem-day problem with drug use began in the year 1966. We can almost point to a date in history where America’s attitude toward drugs changed.
The drug problem has been around for many years, however:
- The drug problem is changing.
- There is still a lot of misconception about who the problem is.
CHANGING DRUG USE
Cocaine is a drug that is clearly leveling off; its use seems to be decreasing in the country. Crack is simply a form of cocaine — cocaine that can be smoked.
Crack is no stronger than cocaine, but smoking it is the single most efficient method of delivering a drug to the brain. The only difference between crack and cocaine is that, with crack, a higher percentage of the drug goes to the brain, so it is much more active in the body.
Contrary to popular belief, cocaine is physically addictive. It increases the secretion of dopamine in the brain. It prevents the reabsorption of dopamine after you use it. Dopamine is the chemical that transports electrical impulses that make us feel good. When you take cocaine, there is more dopamine, ergo you feel good. The bad news is that after you use cocaine for a period of time and then stop, the body develops dopamine deprivation, which means it does not secrete dopamine on its own.
By comparison, the use of heroin is increasing faster than the use of cocaine and crack is declining. The reason is fairly simple. In 1993, heroin sold on the street was ten times stronger than it was in the 1970’s. The reason that this is so important is not because it is stronger but because heroin has always had a self-limiting audience since a needle must be used. People don’t like sticking needles in their arms so they often won’t mess with it to begin with. Today, almost nobody uses a needle. Heroin is now so strong, people inhale or smoke it just like cocaine. Now, heroin is going to a strata of society that we have never seen before. We are beginning to see evidence that the new addicts are middle-class Americans.
The fastest growing drug abused by people under the age of sixteen in the U.S. is LSD. Today, kids talk about their drug use fairly openly; they don’t tend to hide it. If you ask them why they use LSD, they will usually answer because it is a safe drug — it is non-addicting. The only danger kids equate with a drug, very often, is its addiction potential. Clearly, there are negative consequences of drugs other than addiction.
Another change we are seeing is the growth of marijuana use for kids under the age of fifteen, which is virtually exponential. The grass being smoked today bears very little resemblance to the grass of the 1960’s. The first year we started keeping these statistics (1966-67), the avenge purity of marijuana seized in the U.S. was .5% THC. The average purity of THC seized in the U.S. today is 9.5%. The drug is twenty times stronger than what we smoked in the 1960’s. hi the 1960’s, you paid about $25 for an ounce of grass. Today, kids are paying $500-$600 an ounce. This rate is not due to the rate of inflation, but because it is a completely different product.
The problem with LSD is the strength — the purity. It is the strongest drug of abuse in the world. The other problem with LSD is that, in its purest form, it is an odorless, tasteless, clear liquid. The way LSD works is by causing a simple chemical change in the brain. It causes the switching mechanism that directs outside perceptions to the appropriate area of the brain to get sidetracked. In other words, colors can be heard and music can be seen because they have been redirected to different parts of the brain — the particular sensation has been thrown offtrack.
The bad news about [SD is flashbacks. If you take [SD, you may be prone to having a burst of energy that cannot be controlled. Generally, flashbacks last 10-30 seconds. The two most common flashbacks consist of shooting stars or melting colors. About 20-25% of the people who use [SD get flashbacks. The real problem is that studies have shown that people have experienced flashbacks up to twenty years after taking the drug. It may be a lifetime phenomenon. Despite what you may have heard, you cannot control a good trip or a bad trip. It is controlled by your subconscious, and you can’t control your subconscious.
WHO Is THE DRUG PROBLEM?
If I say “drug addict,” most Americans conjure up in their minds what they picture to be a drug addict. Most Americans think of them as minorities, blacks, or hispanics because virtually every addict you see on TV is a black or Hispanic male. However, 77% of the drug addicts in this country are white. Twelve percent of the U.S. population is black, but they only represent 12.5% of the drug addicts. According to high school surveys, black students consistently use fewer illegal drugs than white students. The rate of alcoholism among whites under 21 years of age is almost twice as high as among blacks of the same age. There is a tremendous myth that drug addiction is a minority-dominated disease. This is because minorities generally tend to use drugs on the streets; they do it in your face. White drug use takes place behind closed doors.
Five misconceptions of drug use are:
- It is minority-dominated.
- It is a big-city problem. The per capita of drug use among urban, suburban, and city high schools is no different. The difference is where it takes place. In urban high schools, it takes place in a much more open environment.
- Drug addicts are bums. Seventy percent of drug addicts are employed. Fifty-eight percent are employed full-time.
- Only stupid people do drugs. We continue to equate intelligence with drug use.
- Nice kids don’t do drugs. Drug use is a communicable disease — a disease that spreads from one person to another. It has nothing to do with how nice your kids are.
DRUG ABUSE AND THE EFFECT ON AMERICAN CORPORATIONS
Substance-abusing employees can be in one of three separate categories:
- They use illegal drugs.
- They use alcohol in a way that affects their abilities to do their jobs.
- They abuse legal substances like valium.
Yearly studies show that consistently 15% of the American workforce has a substance abuse problem. The National Institute of Drug Abuse breaks down seven major categories of employees as drug abusers; the occupation that has the greatest number of drug abusers is construction. About 30% of construction workers abuse drugs. The second highest industry to abuse drugs is the financial industry. Both of these industries tend to be dominated by younger males, who have a higher rate of substance abuse. However, this is a changing phenomenon. Ten years ago, the number of addicts in the U.S. based on gender was 80% male and 20% female. This has changed to 55% male and 45% female today. These changes are largely due to cocaine, which is the drug of choice for women.
Only 15% of the workforce abuses drugs, but that fairly small percentage produces negative consequences that go far beyond their numbers. It produces negative consequences in two very different ways:
- The loss of direct dollars that are measurable
- The issue of litigation
THE Loss OF DIRECT DOLLARS
Motorola did a three-year study of drug abuse in its company. This study is still considered to be the most well-documented in-house study of drug abuse in the workplace. Motorola documented that, with 60,000 employees as a base, they were losing about $190 million a year that they could directly measure as the cost of the employee drug abuse problem. For any corporation, you can estimate that for every drug-abusing employee, it costs the company $5,000-$6,000 per year in direct measurable losses.
How do you come up with these dollar figures?
- Absent substance-abusing employees are absent from work five to eight times more often than non-abusing employees.
- Production Capability: Drug-abusing employees operate at 60% of their capability.
- Pilfering: Internal theft is common among drug-abusing employees.
- Medical Costs: 5ubstance-abusing employees utilize medical benefits at five times the rate of non-abusing employees. Bell South did a five-year study of their medical costs from years 1976-91; they documented that almost 40% of the dollars they spent on medical benefits were sucked up by the 15-20% employee base that had a substance abuse problem.
- Accidents in the Workforce: Substance-abusing employees have five times as many accidents as non-abusing employees.
The drug that causes the most direct, measurable negative consequences in the workplace is alcohol. Marijuana is second only to alcohol in this respect. When you smoke marijuana, it lessens the pressure on the optic nerve. The sense of depth perception becomes affected. The loss of depth perception lasts for 24-48 hours after you smoke marijuana. If the employee is working with any equipment, the chances of an accident occurring greatly increase as judgment is impaired.
- Workers’ Compensation: Approximately 40% of workers’ compensation claims are caused by the 15% of employees with substance abuse problems. In twenty-three states, if you can show intoxication at the time of the accident, you can move to deny the workers’ compensation claim. In two states, if you institute a substance abuse program in your company, you immediately get a 5% discount on workers’ compensation rate.
When you add all of these direct measurable costs together, it becomes obvious how much drug-abusing employees are costing corporations. Often, employers complain that they don’t know what to look for. Traditionally, companies look at frequency of claims, recreational absenteeism, pilfering, etc.
COMMON QUESTIONS EMPLOYERS Have ABOUT DRUG ABUSE
Some common questions are:
- With a substance abuse program affect my rate of employee absence? If you have an extensive workforce and you don’t have a well-done substance abuse program, the answer is yes. Walmart is the single largest employee drug testing corporation in the U.S. For fifteen of the eighteen months they instituted drug testing, they found a 10% drop in on-the-job accidents per month compounded.
- Will this invite litigation? As a company, the courts will hold you responsible for punitive damages that result from your ignorance as to your employees’ drug and/or alcohol problems. Forcing you to pay punitive damages is a way for the court to say that you were so gross in your negligence that you are going to be punished as a company. This is the standard that is being used in virtually every case that goes to court.
J.C. Penney has placed an across-the-board ban on all liquor consumption at any business function. They simply said that it is not worthwhile as a corporation to buy all of the potential liability when they probably cannot control it. Don’t leave yourself wide open to litigation.
Be careful as to what is considered a function “under the scope of employment” in your state. In many states, a company Christmas party is considered under the scope of employment. In a recent case, the supreme court of Indiana said that any function in which the employer receives any measurable benefit is an “under the scope of employment” situation.
Can I deny workers’ compensation claims? In many states, if you handle it properly, you can. In all fifty states, you should never have to pay an employment compensation claim if intoxication was involved in your employee’s decision. In some states, denial is easier than in others.
How Do You DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM?
In 1987, less than 5% of Fortune 5,000 companies had substance abuse programs involving various levels of drug testing. In 1993, 93% had substance abuse programs. While the largest companies in the U.S. have faced the issue of substance abuse, small to medium-sized companies are way behind in dealing with the problem in aggressive ways.
The reasons are clear:
- They fear litigation.
- They are afraid of the costs — in time and dollars.
- They fear the attitude of their employees.
THE WRITTEN POLICY
The first and most important step in solving your drug abuse problem in the workplace is to design a written policy that details all the rules of the ball game so everyone knows what the rules are. If you follow this first step, you have a host of things available to you. You can do just about anything if you have written rules ahead of time.
Written policies generally run 35-45 pages in length. Of course, you don’t have to write up something that huge, that is, until you get sued. If you are sued, you’ll be glad you did it. Of course, your employees don’t get the 35-page document, but a 2-3 page summary for them that meets all of the legal ramifications.
What are the rules at work? No one can bring alcohol to work. However, does that mean they can have it in their cars in the parking lot on your property? All of these types of questions must be addressed.
How do you define “under the influence of drugs and alcohol”? Two words that should never appear in any policy involving drugs or alcohol, if you want to win in court, are “impaired” or “intoxicated.” If you use a standard in which your employees are not allowed to come to work impaired or intoxicated, and you get sued for wrongful discharge, you will lose. There is no way to prove impairment or intoxication by illegal drugs. A drug test does not prove it. The definition you want to use is the systems’ present definition. It says that if employees come to work with a certain level or higher of drugs or alcohol in their systems, by definition they are under the influence.
If you accept this definition, then when do you do a drug or alcohol test? The only way you can properly accuse someone of being under the influence is with a drug or alcohol test. There are 22 different levels of drug testing. The appropriate number of levels of drug testing is company-specific, based on such things as safety sensitivity, etc.
What kinds of drug tests are there?
- Pre-employment test: A pm-employment drug test is merely a stupidity test. Drugs remain in the system for only sixty hours. There have been studies that show if you do 100% pre-employment drug testing, you will catch only 25% of the people who use illegal drugs. Seventy-five percent will clean up before the test.
- Random testing: In California, you cannot do random drug testing on non-safety-sensitive employees.
- Post-accident testing
- For-cause testing: Based on behavior you have seen at work — either a pattern or a single outrageous act — you might believe that your employee came to work under the influence. Generally, it is a pattern of behavior. You first have to know two things to legitimize for-cause testing:
- Is drug testing legal? In virtually every state, drug testing is legal. The fourth amendment only protects people from illegal search and seizure by the government. You have no constitutional protection to search and seizure from another person. However, some states do give you privacy protection.
- Do not do alcohol testing at the same time you do drug testing because while the window for drugs is sixty hours, it is two to three hours for alcohol. Generally, it is post-accident testing that is the most appropriate for alcohol. You must document a pattern of behavior that you can articulate. Your supervisors must be trained to know what to look for.
Most companies put the cutoff for blood-alcohol level at .04 or .05. This is a good policy for two reasons:
- It has been litigated to death.
- It is a cut-off level that the D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) uses.
This tells your employees that you don’t care what they do on their own time, but you don’t want them to have more than two drinks before they come to work.
Is DRUG TESTING ACCURATE?
The last thing you ever want to do is unfairly accuse someone of being intoxicated. When you do drug testing, meet the following five standards:
- Have a chain of custody collection that meets D.O.T. standards. If you are sued, you have to prove that the test was legitimate.
- Always use a lab certified by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. These labs have to meet an extremely high qualification standard. You can lose a case due to procedural errors at thelab.
- Use a two-part test: 1) EMiT — preliminary test, and 2) gas chromatography.
- Use an MS test (mass-spectrometry).
- Before you notify the company that the employee tested positive, hire a Medical Review Officer (MRO). The MRO is an independent contractor who is also a physician and a toxicologist. The MRO’s job is to prove a mistake was made. It is only after the MRO identifies that intoxication was due to illegal drugs that you take it to the company.
With all of the suits against hundreds of companies across the U.S., no corporation has lost a labor law suit when utilizing this system. As a business owner, you are virtually indemnified at losing a suit.
WHAT To Do ABOUT SUBSTANCE-ABUSING EMPLOYEES
There is a misconception that you cannot discriminate at work. This is simply not true. You make discriminating decisions every day. You may fire people, not based on poor performance, but because you didn’t like them. It is perfectly legal if you do not pick on protected groups.
For example, if you have two employees that have both tested positive for drugs, and you fire one and allow the other to attend treatment, you have that right only if you don’t have the issue of protected class. Include in your policy that the corporation retains the right, on a case-by-case basis, to offer treatment or discipline, or a combination of both. However, it is bad business practice to set up a rule that the first time someone comes in to work under the influence, he/she is fired. Part of what you’re going to depend on to get this process to work is the support of your people. You want them to think it’s fair. Stutman recommends instead a partial discriminatory process which says:
Any employee who has worked at the organization for less than one year and has a documented work performance problem, if found to be under the influence, will be disciplined up to termination. Any employee who has worked for the organization for more than two years, does not have a performance problem or a past violation of the drug policy, will automatically be offered enrollment in treatment in lieu of discipline.
This policy gets the support of employees. With this policy, there are no losers. If the employees are valuable, you can keep them and rehabilitate them.
In California, almost 80% of the dollars spent on drugs by the state are spent on enforcement. Law enforcers will never make drugs unavailable in this country. Too many Americans depend on law enforcement to solve the problem for them. Drugs will always be available. What does work is education and treatment.
THE SIGNS OF DRUG USE
- Cocaine: The person will experience emotional ups and downs. For three to four days, the person will be in a great mood, then for three to four days he/she is in a terrible mood. The pattern will repeat itself over and over.
A cocaine user will often experience a “superman” syndrome where the person acts as though he/she is invincible. At the same time, the cocaine user can become paranoid, always asking why people are “picking” on him/her. This combination explains why many cocaine users become violent.
- Marijuana: A person using marijuana will have very red eyes. Marijuana burns the eyes. It bums at three times the heat of tobacco. The single most obvious sign of regular marijuana use is loss of short-term memory. THC stays in the body for up to thirty days because it is fat soluble. It remains in the fatty cells of organs such as the brain, which has a high percentage of fat cells. A chronic marijuana user loses short-term memory. mc builds up in the area of the brain that controls short-term memory and interferes with it.
- LSD: Often with LSD, there are no symptoms. Studies show that young kid on LSD can sit in classrooms and never be identified as using any drug whatsoever.
- Heroin: Heroin users are very slow and lethargic. Heroin is a depressant; users are almost never involved in violent crimes.
Stutman’s recommendation for a federal policy on drugs follows:
- From kindergarten to grade 12, enforce meaningful, mandatory education about drugs. If the district does not comply, federal funds should be withheld.
- The breakdown of federal funds for law enforcement should be reallocated in different ways.
- Take very strong foreign policy directives. Drugs should be a top national priority. Richard Nixon, during his presidency, told Turkey that either they stop growing opium or the U.S. would stop all foreign aid and terminate any other relationships with them. In two years, Turkey stopped growing opium and, for five or six years in this country, it was very difficult to find heroin. Policies similar to this should be enforced.