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In the midst of remarkably low unemployment rates, America’s opioid epidemic may make it even harder to find qualified workers – or at least ones who can pass a standard pre-employment drug test.

The failure rate for pre-employment drug screening is at a 12-year-high, largely because of increased marijuana and amphetamine detection. But opioid use is also a factor in the inability of workers to find qualified workers, as users have either dropped out of the workforce because of acute drug dependency or know they will be unable to pass a drug screen.

The numbers are staggering: some 90 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses. The effect on the economy in terms of lost productivity and other factors is about $78 billion a year. And there is increasing evidence and suspicion that the opioid epidemic is limiting the number of qualified workers in the workforce. The workforce participation rate – which equates to the number of people actively looking for employment – has been stuck at nearly 65 percent for four years, despite the increasing availability of jobs.

And there is lots of anecdotal evidence. One Indiana company reports it faced such difficulty finding sober workers to pass drug tests for its manufacturing facility it is increasing the pace of job automation at its plant.

Many staffing agencies offer temp and temp-to-hire jobs that require passage of a pre-employment drug screen, and that is unlikely to change, regardless the difficulty in recruiting drug-free employees. Here are some steps your company can take, however, to address the opioid crisis:

-Ensure that your employee manual includes a well-articulated substance-abuse policy.
-Partner with health providers and insurance companies to educate workers on the dangers of opioid use.

-Make sure any pre-employment drug screen includes a test for prescription painkillers.

-Educate employees, perhaps through insurance providers, of the potentially harmful health effects of opioid abuse.

-Offer counseling and drug-treatment options as part of your health benefits package.
Employers need to do their part to stem the opioid epidemic, as it is quantifiably hurting company’s bottom lines. It is easy to weed out drug users on the front end, but some addicts may already be within your ranks. Treat those struggling with addiction with compassion and try to get them help. There is always the chance an addict can return to work, appreciative of the help and eager to help your company succeed.

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