Drug abuse in the gaming industry

The federal government estimates that approximately three-quarters of all illicit drug users 18 and older are employed. This information is according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s “2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” One industry often identified for having a high rate of illicit drug users is the gaming industry.

In a 2007 report issued by SAMHSA, 10.4 percent of full-time workers in the “Amusement, Gambling and Recreation Industries” admit to “past-month” illicit drug use; almost 15.4 percent admitted to being “heavy” alcohol users, as reported on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Substance Abuse Information Database Web site.

The same report also shows high levels of substance abuse among workers who service the gaming industry such as “Repair and Maintenance” workers (11.6 percent past-month illicit drug use and 15.3 percent heavy alcohol use), workers in “Food Services” and “Drinking Places” (18.4 percent past-month illicit drug use and 12.8 percent heavy alcohol use), and “Landscaping” workers (14.4 percent past-month illicit drug use and 16.5 percent heavy alcohol use).

How drug abuse affects the industry

Substance abusing workers tend not to be good employees. A compelling study by the U.S. Postal Service found that substance abusers, when compared to non-substance abusing coworkers, are involved in 55 percent more accidents, and sustain 85 percent more on-the-job injuries according to the SAID Web site.

The National Safety Council reported that 80 percent of those injured in “serious” drug-related accidents at work are not the drug abusing employees but innocent coworkers and others.

Drug testing as a solution

Workplace drug and alcohol testing have proven to be highly effective ways of deterring substance abuse and identifying those who need help. It is legal in every state, though a handful of states regulate it, and commonly accepted as a way of life in American industry.

For many years employers in the gaming industry have relied on laboratories to analyze hair and urine samples, and for many years these were the best testing methods available. While drug testing makes a lot of sense waiting two to four days to get a result from a lab is impractical. When a drug test result is the only thing preventing the hiring of new workers or taking appropriate disciplinary action, an immediate and accurate drug test result is what is needed.

Rapid result, on-site testing has become a popular alternative to traditional lab-based testing, especially for industries with high substance abuse rates. Often an employer can significantly reduce the time it takes to conduct a test by utilizing rapid result testing. The results are available within minutes and, depending on the product being used, can be as accurate as laboratory screening technology.

Oral fluid testing

Employers in the gaming industry now have options available in terms of what to test. No longer are hair and urine the only specimens recognized as an accurate medium for detecting drugs. Oral fluid has proven to be effective. It is an appealing option because it can be conducted either with a rapid result device or through

a laboratory.

It eliminates the inconvenience of securing restrooms with bluing agents or turning off the hot water. It makes it possible for every collection to be observed, and eliminates concerns about mixed gender collections. Every collection can take place on premises eliminating the down time associated with sending workers to off-site clinics or the high cost of bringing professional technicians to a casino.

Numerous studies show that oral fluid testing is an accurate indicator of the presence of drugs in a person’s system.

When choosing a rapid result testing device

A word of caution about rapid result testing: Not all rapid testing devices are created equal. While the prices of these products have come down significantly in the last few years, the old adage “you get what you pay for” often applies. When considering instant testing, be it with urine or oral fluid, consider

the following:

• Check applicable state laws. All states permit instant testing though place certain conditions on it.

• Carefully review the information found in the product’s package insert. This is where you should find, among other information, accuracy claims. Ask the provider to back up these claims; if they’re true meeting your request should be no problem.

• Try all devices under consideration in real work situations. Devices differ in how they are administered, how results are read, how long it takes to get a result, etc. Make sure the device you’re considering will work for you.

• Deal with a reliable vendor. You’re going to need technical support. Not all providers have experts on hand to answer questions.

Does rapid result drug testing work?

Rapid result testing simply makes drug testing more efficient. The time it takes to administer a drug test is significantly reduced thus minimizing the down time commonly associated with drug testing. The test result is available within minutes rather than days making faster hiring and disciplinary decisions possible.

While drug testing deters substance abuse, how you administer your program will determine how much money you save in the process. Rapid result, on-site drug testing represents an efficient and cost-effective way of achieving a drug-free workplace.

William F. Current is the president of WFC & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in drug-free workplace policy development as well as supervisor training and employee education services. Current is the former executive director of the American Council for Drug Education and director of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace. He is the author of nine books on substance abuse issues, including “Why Drug Testing and 6 Easy Steps to Starting a Successful Drug Testing Program.”