Workplace Drug Overdoses on the Rise

The workplace is not immune from drug use. According to a recent survey from the National Safety Council, more than 70% of U.S. employers are dealing with the direct impact of prescription drug misuse in their workplaces. But, drug use in the workplace has taken an ominous turn. According to a new study form the Bureau of Labor Statistics, deaths from unintentional drug and alcohol overdoses in the workplace rose more than 30 percent in 2016. The BLS study goes on to state that overdose fatalities have increased by at least 25 percent annually since 2012.

Three Ways to Avoid Workplace Drug Overdoses

There are three ways to avoid workplace drug overdoses. The most important factor in any workplace drug program is strong policy. This policy should state that your company is a drug free workplace and should cover drug testing, drug recognition training as well as employee assistance. The second way to stop employee OD’s is by a good drug testing program. But, these two things are already widely known in the business community. The third, however, is not so widely known.

Workplace Drug Recognition Training

It’s important to have training in drug recognition, like the training we provide in our CSi program. Drug recognition allows you to recognize drug abuse indicators and intercede in your employees drug use before it causes a workplace accident or a workplace overdose. A good example of the need for drug recognition training happened just a few years ago. When I was working as a patrol sergeant in Northern California, we received a report of a crash between a big rig and a small compact car. Unfortunately, the driver of the compact car died from the crash. The driver was driving a big rig for a large national corporation. We recognized that he was high on methamphetamine right away (he later tested positive for the drug). We went back to his workplace and talked to his boss. The boss told us that he thought the driver was high, but the driver was known for filing grievances on their supervisors and the boss was afraid of doing a reasonable suspicion test on the driver. The boss felt that the two hour training he received was not enough to justify the drug test. I agree. Two hours is not enough. But, what if this supervisor had received the proper drug influence recognition training? Would the driver of the compact still be alive today?

CSi comprehensive substance identification


Drug testing in the workplace is an important compliment to drug recognition training. But, drug testing in the workplace is limited to certain drugs. What happens if an employee is taking a drug that is not covered by your drug testing protocol? Drug recognition training and drug testing go hand in hand.

Author: Keith Graves

Keith is a retired Police Sergeant and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 29 years. Keith was named as California’s Narcotics Officer of the Year and is a prior winner of MADD’s California Hero Award. He has years of experience as a Narcotics Detective and a Narcotics Unit Supervisor and is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). Keith teaches both the DRE course and the Drug Abuse Recognition Course and has taught at the Police Academy. He has developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association, California POST and California Colleges and currently consults POST on drug investigation procedures. Keith has held other assignments besides narcotics including Training Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, COPPS Officer, Traffic Officer, and 20 years as a SWAT Team member and Sniper Team Leader. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training and drug investigations. He is recognized as an international drug expert and has testified as an expert in court proceedings on drug cases, homicide cases and rape prosecutions. Keith earned a BA in Business Management from Saint Mary’s College of California and a MA in Criminal Justice. Keith is the Founder and President of Graves & Associates, a company dedicated to providing drug training to law enforcement and private industry.

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