SHSU Receives Grant to Target Drug Abuse in the Workplace

SHSU’s Impaired Driving Initiatives Program recently received a $740,000 grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Over the next three years, the "Drug Impairment Training for Texas Employers" (DITTE) program will be developed for human resources and public affairs professionals, business owners, and senior and executive management employers on how to recognize signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol use among their employees. This program will be patterned after a similar effort to train employees in secondary schools to detect drug and alcohol use among students.

"With support from the National Safety Council-Texas, the primary goal of the grant is to work with Texas employers to educate their employees on traffic safety and to help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on Texas highways," said Cecelia Marquart, director of the Impaired Driving Initiatives at Sam Houston State University’s Criminal Justice Center. "This strategy, focusing on impaired driving, would be one initiative businesses could initiate to minimize employee alcohol and drug use."

The six-hour training curriculum will assist employers in identifying the signs and symptoms of drug impairment, including alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drug use. It will also provide a systematic approach to recognizing and evaluating individuals with abuse problems. By developing early intervention strategies, the program is designed to make roadways and workplaces safer.

The consequences of drug use on the job are staggering. About 75 percent of all adults using illicit drugs are employed, as well as most binge drinkers and heavy alcohol users. Nationally, for example, full-time workers aged 18-49 who reported any current illicit drug use were more likely than those reporting no current illicit drug use to have:

  • worked for three or more employers in the past year;
  • taken an unexcused absence from work in the past month
  • voluntarily left an employer in the last year; or
  • been fired by an employer in the last year.

According to a survey sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, illicit drug-using employees are more likely:

  • to request early dismissal or time off;
  • to have absences of eight days or more;
  • to be late for work;
  • to be involved in a workplace accident; and
  • to file workers’ compensation.

According to the National Safety Council, motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of on- and off- the- job accidental deaths in the U.S. In addition to making roads safer, addressing substance abuse issues can save companies money. In Texas, employers can save an estimated $13,514 a year in health care and related costs for each employee identified with a drug and alcohol issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that Texas employers spend $4.3 billion a year as the result of employee traffic accidents.

In recent years, abuse of prescription drugs has become a threat on the job. While marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug problem nationwide, the abuse of pain killers ranks second. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 50 percent of Americans use one prescription drug for medical reasons on a regular basis, while 20 percent of Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in their lifetime.

The Impaired Driving Initiatives Program will develop an advisory group and pilot the DITTE curriculum the first year. The proposed curriculum will include an overview of drug and alcohol use, drug identification and effects, and the development of a resource guide for policies, programs and practices.

The six-hour training will be piloted in five key regions, including Austin/San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, El Paso, and Houston/Galveston. The program is expected to train up to 600 employers during the second and third years of the program with the goal of safer Texas highways.

Member of The Texas State University System