The arrest of 37 people on drug charges at a Boeing aircraft plant last week puts the spotlight on the increasing problem of prescription drug abuse in the workplace, according to experts. The former and current Boeing employees who were arrested were charged with selling or trying to buy painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs at the plant in Philadelphia, according to Reuters.
The arrests followed four years of undercover investigations. Detecting prescription drug abuse in the workplace is difficult, the article notes. Many drug tests used by employers do not detect painkillers or other prescription medicines. For example, of the 4.5 million drug tests conducted last year, only 12 percent tested for the painkiller oxycodone. Most drug tests are conducted before a worker is hired, so employers often are not aware when employees become addicted to a drug after they are on the job.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne told the newspaper, “These problems with prescription drugs, the addiction rates, the abuse rates, are happening in a lot of places that would surprise you. These are people who don’t fit the profile of a typical drug user.”
A study released in September 2010 by the diagnostic testing company Quest Diagnostics found more American workers and job applicants are testing positive for prescription opioids. The company evaluated the results from more than 5.5 million urine drug tests, and found an 18 percent increase in drug tests positive for opioids in the general U.S. workforce from 2008 to 2009, and more than a 40 percent jump from 2005 to 2009.