cocaine.jpgSome workers have a breaking point; and some a weakness.

The number of American workers holding more than one job climbed yet again last month to 7.1 million from 6.8 million in February of 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With so many good-paying jobs not being replaced, some workers are finding they need more than one job to make ends meet — or at least keep up their standard of living, said Ellen Ernst Kossek, a human resource professor at Michigan State University’s School of Labor & Industrial Relations.

One devastating result of grinding too many stones may be the rising rate of drug use — including amphetamines, which are stimulates, and cocaine.

Quest Diagnostics, one of the biggest workplace drug-screening company in the country, reviewed 6.4 million drug tests and found amphetamines positives jumped 16.7 percent last year; and the numbers were up 75 percent over the last four years. Also, cocaine positives rose 8 percent from the previous year.

One reason may be heavy work burdens, said Steven Shoptaw, a licensed psychologist and professor in the UCLA Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences. “An increase among adults in the workplace who use, abuse and are dependent on psychostimulants; and/or methamphetamine (in particular) and cocaine may be being used to support the increased demands for productivity in the workplace — longer hours, two jobs, more output in the same time — in order to keep the job. Other factors may be at play, but I don’t know what they may be.”

While Shoptaw pointed out that overall drug use in the general population is not rising, the workplace presents it’s own challenges.

“I don’t know exactly why a worker would use stimulants in the context of known drug testing from a rational perspective,” he said. “One might think that coffee would be a better choice of stimulants to facilitate getting work done, but it is the case that meth produces a huge amount more energy and a longer sustained boost in stamina than coffee. That makes some sense to me.”

Some of the increase in positives can also be attributed to the beefing up of drug testing rules for certain types of workers, including those in transportation. “Some of the general workforce positives for cocaine might be attributable to businesses adopting the federal guidelines which started in 2010. However, amphetamines specifically are up from 2007,” said Dr. Barry Sample, Director of Science and Technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions.

Why amphetamine, or methamphetamine, a type of amphetamine? “Meth focuses attention, brightens mood, reduces appetite (which leads to weight loss – a special benefit to women), and increases interest in sex,” explained Shoptaw. “All of these are positive factors that can contribute to individuals beginning meth use. But the positive attributes fade over time at the same dosing. So people have to increase dose to get the effects, which increases costs for the drug and risks for being detected by police or employers.”

Not to mention what it does to your health and your career.

“More than half of employers conduct drug tests on all job candidates, while only 29 percent do not conduct drug tests on any job candidates,” according the Society for Human Resource Management.

In most cases, employers can legally demote or fire you if you come up positive, especially if you have a safety sensitive type of job.

“The ADA actually treats drug and alcohol abuse somewhat differently,” Chris Kuczynski, an attorney with the EEOC said. “An alcoholic who is currently drinking can be covered, although he or she can be held to the same standards as other workers concerning use of alcohol at the worksite, can be disciplined for violating rules that say employees cannot be working under the influence of alcohol, etc.

“The distinction between drug and alcohol use can be important in some situations, particularly where treatment is concerned,” he said. “Because persons engaging in the illegal use of drugs aren’t covered and aren’t therefore entitled to reasonable accommodation, an employer doesn’t have to offer them the opportunity to take leave for treatment.”

It may be time to take the first steps in cleaning up your act, or help a friend or family member you know is struggling.

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