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Drug Abuse Spikes Among Railroad Workers

No industry is safe from rampant drug abuse, as is evident by the recent spike in illegal drug abuse among those who work for the railroad. Case in point: earlier this year, just after a railroad worker checked in to be given his daily assignments, he was found dead in the bathroom as a result of overdosing on illegal prescription drugs.

Drug tests have shown that about eight percent of workers who were involved in railroad accidents in the year 2016 tested positive for illicit drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, morphine, and Oxycontin, as per federal documents that were given to The Washington Post.

While eight percent may sound small, it is actually the highest recorded number since the Federal Railroad Administration began maintaining test records back in 1987. That number is also three times higher than it was 10 years ago.

If we take a look at the bigger picture and examine all railway workers, not just the ones involved in accidents, then the number of engineers, train workers, and dispatchers who tested positive on random drug tests in 2015 capped out at nearly 45 percent, with individual numbers coming in at an increase of about 250 individuals from the year prior.

Like the medical field, it is equally unsettling that this many railroad workers would test positive for drugs. While doctors have their patients’ lives in their hands, railroad workers are responsible for hundreds of lives every day, and one wrong move could result in serious consequences. Over 560 million passengers rode the train last year, and over 14 million carloads of freight were delivered. Putting someone in charge of this many lives or this much product when he is high on drugs is like playing Russian Roulette.

It seems the industry has taken measures in the past to curb illicit drug use among their workers, seeing as how not one employee tested positive for drugs after rail accidents had occurred back in 2014, unless this was simply coincidence. And only two people came up positive after random tests were given last year. Yet, there are only three months left in 2016, and already 16 rail workers have tested positive for illicit drugs.

One would think that railroad workers would be hesitant to abuse drugs while employed for this industry, considering the rail industry is among the most frequently drug-tested in the country. Candidates are tested before they’re hired, and employees are not only randomly tested after being hired, but they are also tested again every time a significant mistake is made.

However, with the rampant increase in heroin and illegal opioid usage in the past few years, the railroad industry too has proven that it is not immune to the epidemic, no matter how many drug tests they perform in an effort keep their passengers and cargo safe. Last year in particular was when the 43 percent increase occurred, and this was after a long period stretching back to 2009 wherein no significant increases had been recorded.