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A Million UK Workers Test Positive for Drugs

Screenings show one in 30 employees uses illegal drugs while working—up 50% since 2007.

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By Valerie Tejeda

07/03/12

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Nearly a million British workers—or one in 30—have tested positive for narcotics, cannabis, opiates, or cocaine while on the job, according to statistics from a UK drug-testing firm. Analysing results from 1.7 million workplace tests conducted over the past five years, researchers noted that the numbers of employees testing positive for drugs rose 50% from 2007-2011. Those most likely to test positive for UK government-defined "Class A" drugs—like heroin, amphetamines, methadone and cocaine—were aged 25-34, not under-25s as might have been expected. Workers were tested across a range of industries including policing, haulage, utilities, retail, occupational health, manufacturing, construction, commerce, and healthcare. A report also highlights recent drug trends—use of Class A drugs, for example, tends to peak years after entering the workplace because these drugs are generally more expensive, and therefore more accessible as a worker's disposable income increases. Researchers hope the report will help employers become more alert about substance abuse in the workplace. "Drug screening programs are a good way of identifying potential drug related issues in the workplace," says Dr. Claire George, who helped direct the study. "The introduction of a balanced policy which includes an employee assistance program providing support and education, as well as drug testing, has been proven to reduce the level of substance misuse in the workplace over time."

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