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Drug-Free Workplace

The Division of Workplace Programs (DWP) is a component of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), which is part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It plays a unique and important role in workplace regulation, knowledge development, and technical assistance.

The DWP addresses primary substance-abuse prevention as well as early identification and intervention in adult and youthful employees, and through them it reaches their families and the communities in which they work. The workplace is recognized as a critically important social institution where our youth are successfully transitioned to adulthood through employment. This includes volunteer positions, job training, welfare to work, public housing and community redevelopment, health care, and criminal justice programs.

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires some Federal contractors and all Federal grantees to agree they will provide Drug-Free Workplaces as a condition of receiving a contract or grant from a Federal agency. For employers, having a written Drug-Free Workplace policy provides the basic foundation and sends a clear message that drug use is not acceptable in the workplace.

The Drug-Free Workplace Web site provides focused, up-to-date, and state-of-the-art knowledge, materials, best practices, how-to guides, an annotated bibliography, fact sheets, research, and applied research. It also offers information on training, technical assistance, multi-media presentations (such as e-briefings and live conference videos), a calendar of appropriate meetings/events, and news headlines. Future content will be developed following discussions with public and private consultants in various fields related to workplace health and prevention.

Figure 1 (below) shows positive drug-test trends within various groups of the National Drug-Free Workplace. As the chart indicates, the percent-positive rate in the National U.S. Workforce (red) decreased from 18.1 percent in 1987 to 4.1 percent in 2006. This group includes those in Federal agencies, Department of Transportation-regulated industries, and the private sector who are tested by DWP labs or in accordance with DWP testing standards and cutoffs. The Federal Agency Workplace positive drug-test rates (yellow) have remained relatively unchanged. Data for this category were obtained from the annual reports submitted to DWP each year by the Executive Branch Federal agencies.

Figure 1: National Drug-Free Workplace Data, 1987-2006

Figure 1: National Drug-Free Workplace Data, 1987-2006

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Source: DWP/CSAP & Quest Diagnostics, 2006 Drug Testing Index

U.S. Department of Transportation

In the late 1980s, a special office was established within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to advise the Secretary and DOT officials on drug enforcement and drug testing issues. Its role was expanded as a result of the 1991 Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act.

Today, the Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance (ODAPC) is the world's largest drug and alcohol workplace testing program, its regulations covering employers in the aviation, trucking, railroad, mass transit, pipeline, and maritime industries. Roughly 12.1 million people performing safety-sensitive transportation jobs are covered by DOT regulations, which govern drug and alcohol testing for pre-employment, on-the-job performance, post-accident, and job re-entry after failing a test. The office publishes rules on who must conduct drug and alcohol tests, how to conduct those tests, and what procedures to use when testing.

Other functions of the ODAPC are to coordinate drug and alcohol policies with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), provide assistance to other countries developing similar regulations, and harmonize drug and alcohol testing regulations with Canada and Mexico in accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

More information about the ODAPC is available online at http://www.dot.gov/ost/dapc . The site provides links to other Web pages explaining the office's role and function. Other links offer descriptions of the testing procedure and the various experts or professional groups involved along the way, including:

  • Urine Collection Personnel
  • Drug Testing Laboratories
  • Medical Review Officer
  • Breath Alcohol Technician
  • Screening Test Technician
  • Substance Abuse Professional

An Employee Page provides a list of questions and answers for workers in safety-sensitive positions, explaining such matters as the purpose of testing, where to find the rules on drug and alcohol testing, what happens to the test results, and what to do if the employee believes a co-worker has a drug or alcohol problem.

Visitors to the ODAPC site can also download a copy of the employee handbook, What Employees Need to Know About DOT Drug & Alcohol Testing (PDF). This 23-page booklet is a quick, readable guide to the basics every employee should know about the DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations.

Drug Testing in the Military

In June 1971, responding to a report that approximately 42 percent of U.S. Military personnel in Vietnam had used illegal drugs at least once, the Department of Defense (DoD) began urinalysis drug-testing of all service members. A DoD survey of behavior among military personnel about a decade later showed that nearly 28 percent of service members had used an illegal drug in the past 30 days, and that the rate was greater than 38 percent in some units.

The DoD drug-testing program was revamped and expanded beginning in 1983, following an investigation that revealed illegal drug use might have been a contributing factor in a 1981 aircraft accident aboard the USS Nimitz that killed 14, injured 48, destroyed seven planes, and damaged 11, at an estimated cost of $150 million. Six of those fatally injured had marijuana metabolite in their systems, the investigation revealed.

The DoD now maintains close oversight of the drug-testing program. Military drug-testing laboratories have adopted and in some cases developed state-of-the-art analytical technology, while officials have worked to craft and execute better drug-reduction policies. The result has been a more effective and more credible drug-testing program.

From 2004 to 2006, the number of positive drug tests in the active duty force and active duty high-risk population (18- to 25-year-olds) decreased by 22 percent and 27 percent, respectively. The DoD active duty illicit positive rate for fiscal year 2005 was 1.11 percent, a 24 percent decrease since fiscal year 2002. The Reserve two-year illicit-drug positive rate decreased by 21 percent, while the National Guard two-year illicit drug positives increased by 5 percent. In the more than 25 years since the Military began testing service members for drug use, positive use rates have dropped from nearly 30 percent to less than 1 percent, as shown in figure 2 .

Figure 2: Active Duty Military Drug Positive Rate, 1980-2005

Figure 2: Active Duty Military Drug Positive Rate, 1980-2005

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Source: Status of Drug Use in the Department of Defense Personnel, Fiscal Year 2005, Drug Testing Statistical Report, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics

Figure 3: Recent Policy Changes in DoD Drug Demand Reduction Programs

  • Instituted minimum 100% random testing for Active Duty, Guard, Reserve and DoD Agencies, including 100% random testing of troops deployed in Afghanistan.
  • Required mandatory drug testing of all military applicants, to include testing within 72 hours of entering active duty.
  • Instituted policy to process military members who knowingly use a prohibited drug for separation from military service.
  • Changed the mandatory test panel to meet the new threats.
  • Instituted minimum 100% random DoD civilian testing and consolidated laboratory support.
Source: Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics