As we’ve mentioned many times in our blogs, if your workplace drug testing is targeting mostly young males, your drug testing may be missing others who aren’t fit to be at work and may be risking the safety of themselves and others.
As highlighted in Drugs in the workplace and the community a grey area and other blogs, while younger people and young males in particular were traditionally the largest group of drug users, research is indicating that while drug use amongst younger people is stable or dropping, drug use amongst older people is growing.
For example, in Australia, in 2014, people aged 30 – 59 accounted for 78% of all overdose deaths. In fact, those aged 40 – 49 are more likely to die of a drug overdose than any other age group. These figures include overdoses of illegal and prescription drugs.
It’s not just Australia that is seeing this trend. In a recent MarketWatch article, Quentin Fottrell highlighted that when it comes to overdose deaths in the United States, it’s the Generation X and baby boomers that are leading the way in the hall of shame. He states that drug overdose deaths increased the most for adults aged 55 to 64 in the US, from 4.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 21.8 in 2015. Similar to Australia, the 45 to 54 year old age group had the highest death rate from a drug overdose in 2015, a staggering 30 deaths per 100,000 people.
And while globally men are more likely to die of an overdose, women make up a large part of the worldwide overdose deaths. The Voice of America claimed in a recent article that there has been a significant rise in the number of women dying from drug overdoses globally. They estimate that around one-third of global drug users are women.
What’s the uptake for Australian workplaces from these messages on drugs and overdose deaths?
That workplace drug testing must target older employees as well as younger employees. It’s also wise to educate your employees about the dangers of drugs – both illegal and prescription, as part of your workplace’s robust drug and alcohol management plan.
Note: While on the subject of overdose deaths, it’s sobering to know that the organisers of the International Overdose Awareness Day estimate that in 2014 there were over 200,000 overdose deaths worldwide. That’s more than the combined number of people who attend the AFL and NRL grand finals each year.