COVID-19 caused Drug Use Increase

white pills red covid19 drug increase

A study released last week revealed what many have suspected: the Covid-19 Pandemic has resulted in a drug use increase. The study, co-authored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Millennium Health, found higher drug test positivity rates for cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine positivity.

Rates of drug use increase

Since the declaration of a COVID-19 national emergency on March 13, 2020, the findings uncovered:

  • 31.96% increase for non-prescribed fentanyl
  • 19.96% increase for methamphetamine
  • 10.06% increase for cocaine
  • 12.53% increase for heroin

Online sales of alcoholic beverages rose 234% in the seven-week COVID-impacted period ending April 18 compared to a year ago. Legal marijuana products are also up significantly as people attempt to deal with economic losses, isolation, fear, and uncertainty. Stay at home orders, still active in some states, have made access to help difficult if not impossible.

How Covid affects drug testing

With many workers furloughed or working from home, employee drug testing has decreased. Some employers have modified or paused their drug testing while others have terminated it altogether.

For employers who continue drug testing, finding drug testing centers willing to offer on-site testing has proven more difficult. Inconsistent hours of operation at many centers or long wait times at others lead to frustration for human resource managers trying to ensure workplace safety.

What should employers do about drug use increase?

Don’t trash your drug testing program. Maintain the standards you set before COVID interrupted our way of life.

If your employees are working away from the office, seriously consider implementing pre-employment testing before they return to the office.

Understand the risk of increased drug and alcohol use from people you may least expect. People not used to working from home, during a time of intense stress and no social outlet, leads to increased drug and alcohol use as coping mechanisms.

Clearly communicate to your work-from-home employees that your drug and alcohol policy remains in effect, as well as the consequences for non-compliance.

Consider treating furloughed employees as new-hires when you bring them back to work. The on-boarding and pre-employment drug testing process should be the same.

DOT drug testing during COVID

The Department of Transportation released guidelines on how to proceed with drug and alcohol testing during the COVID-19 pandemic. If your staff was furloughed for more than three weeks, they may be required to have a negative pre-employment drug test before returning to work.

Furloughed employees cannot be tested while they are not working.

Caring for your employees

  1. At the very least, schedule one-on-one calls with each employee to see how they’re doing. Find out what they like about working from home and what are their challenges. Work together to overcome the challenges.
  2. Consider creating a list of resources where your employees can go for emotional support.
  3. Gather your whole team for problem-solving. Someone on your team may have the answers to challenges the others face.

Drug-Testing Work-from-home Employees

Although it’s understandably harder to detect drug use among employees working from home, it’s not impossible. Watch for signs of decreased productivity and inconsistencies. Don’t be afraid to require a reasonable suspicion drug test if you have documentable proof that would lead any other supervisor in your position to suspect drug use.

If you discover drug use among your employees, help them find a substance abuse professional that can help them with a treatment plan. Then require a negative return to duty drug test before allowing them back to work.

We’re Workplace Safety, Simplified.

Need help understanding how to detect and document signs of drug or alcohol use? Download our FREE Reasonable Suspicion Planner then call Lobdock to ask about our Supervisor Training course.

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