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Drug and Alcohol Facts

                      November 27, 2012

Alcohol and Drug Facts


Here are some statistics about alcohol and drug use in Canada and the impact of alcohol and drugs on workplace safety



¡  An estimated 2.6% of Canadians (15 and older) are suggested to be alcohol dependent (Canadian Community Health Survey 2002)

¡  Up to 10% of the labour force can be classified as heavy drinkers (Roger K. McDougall, Canadian Workplace Alcohol and Drug Programs 2004)

¡  11% of Alberta workers reported using alcohol while at work (Alcohol Use and the Alberta Workplace 1992-2002)


Illicit Drugs

¡  In Canada, 8% of the labour force reported that they are current illicit drug users (Roger K. McDougall, Canadian Workplace Alcohol and Drug Programs 2004)

¡  According to the 2004 Canadian Addiction Survey report, 48.7% of Canadian adults said they had used cannabis during their lifetime and 17% said they have used other illicit drugs

¡  According to the same study:

  • 14.1% of Canadians reported past-year cannabis use and 3.1% reported past-year use of other illicit drugs
  • The proportion of Albertans reporting cannabis use in 2004 (15.4%) more than doubled since 1989 (6.5%). Crack cocaine use in 2004 was 2.4% compared to 1.1% in 1989


Prescription Drugs

¡  Canada is second highest in the world for prescription of tranquilizers/sleeping pills, fifth highest for prescription narcotic and within the top 15 for stimulant use

¡  Benzodiazepine (e.g.. Valium, Xanax, and Ativan) use in Canada is four times that of Australia and 15 times that of the United States (both stats from Prescription Drug Use in Canada and the Diversion of Prescription Drugs into the Illicit Drug Market Canadian Journal of Public Health Nov-Dec, 2005)


Alcohol and Drugs and Workplace Safety

¡  A 2001 Cornell University study of testing data from 71 construction companies in the US concluded that, on average, within two years of implementing a drug testing program, workplace injury rates were reduced by 51%

¡  The US Department of Transportation implemented random testing in 1995. Its statistics indicate that since 1995:

  • Random positive tests for alcohol declined by 60%; drugs by 47%
  • Post-incident positive tests for drugs declined from 3.11%  to 1.4%

¡  A further study concluded that fatal crashes among motor coach drivers were down 23% as a result of random alcohol testing

¡  The Effects of Substance Use of Workplace Injuries, Rand Corp study, 2009 concluded that “there is an association between substance use and occupational injury”, after an extensive review of studies and available data

¡  The Effectiveness and Benefit-Cost of Workplace Substance Abuse Prevention Coupled with Random Testing, a study by T. Miller et al, 2010, shows that injuries were reduced by 1/3 when a peer-based intervention program and random testing were introduced in a U.S. transportation company

¡  According to national testing company CANN/AMM, for the Canadian transportation industry, which has had random testing for many years for cross-border trucking, the rate of positive drug tests in 2011 was 1.1% compared to 4.0% for safety sensitive positions in the Alberta energy and construction industry, where most employers do not conduct random testing.


Other Alcohol- and Drug-Related Statistics

¡  One of the triggers for the introduction of employee alcohol and drug testing in North America was the 1981 catastrophic explosion on the aircraft carrier USSN Nimitz. The incident became the catalyst for a federally mandated drug testing program when an investigation revealed that a number of sailors and airmen were abusing drugs. Up to one third of the US military were found to have abused drugs during the early 1980s.

¡  The Canadian oil & gas sector employee assistance program (EAP) utilization for addictions is 35% higher than the other sectors (Shepell Health and Wellness Trends in the Oil & Gas Sector, 2009)

¡  According to the same study, between 2006 and 2008 there was a 112% increase in EAP usage for addiction issues in the oil & gas sector.





Alberta’s Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Project (DARRPP) is a two-year initiative launched on June 20, 2012 to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of comprehensive workplace alcohol and drug programs that will include random workplace testing. DARRPP is led by a multi-stakeholder working group that includes major oil sands industry employers and labour providers. Working from a shared model, participating employers will introduce and monitor random workplace testing programs for safety-sensitive positions and share statistics related to their implementation. For more information about DARRPP, please visit www.darrpp.ca.


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