Productivity Effects Of Drugs

ON Concern about drug use in the U.S. workforce has focused on the most common illicit drugs— Cocaine and Marijuana—although also common is the nonmedical use of TRANQUILIZERS, SEDATIVES, and STIMULANTS. In 1990, about 7 percent of employed workers had used an illicit drug in the past month, according to national surveys. Illicit drugs are used at higher rates by men than by women and also at higher rates by low-paid workers in transient occupations than by other workers.

Laboratory studies show that typical single doses of marijuana effect small temporary impairments in performing complex tasks, whereas typical single doses of cocaine may effect small temporary enhancements — especially when the performance of subjects is impaired by fatigue. To the extent that generalization is possible, sedatives and tranquilizers are similar in their effects to marijuana. Using illicit drugs during off hours is much more common than doing so while on the job. The effects of hangovers, post intoxication fatigue, or withdrawal from a chronic run of use may be significant for productivity, as may also be the potential accumulation of longer term disabilities, including social mistrust.

Productivity loss due to drugs is estimated by comparing the earnings of problem users with those of other people with similar demographic characteristics. The total income losses are now estimated at about 10 billion dollars annually, with a large fraction of this estimate being attributable to the nonmedical use of sedatives and tranquilizers. Productivity losses account for about one sixth of the total estimated economic burden of drug problems.

(SEE ALSO: Industry and Workplace, Drug Use in; Productivity: Effects of Alcohol on; Social Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse)

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