Drugs in the Workplace

By Patrick Donnelly, WVU Extension—Safety & Health Research Assistant, Timber Safe

A dozer operator is slumped over in his seat, machine running. A truck driver is parked alongside the road with the same scenario, slumped over in his seat. A skidder driver comes off the hill with a grapple full of logs so fast that all four wheels come off the ground as he crosses over a water bar. Any of this sound familiar? Maybe not on your job, but someone else’s? This is unfortunately the world we now live in. As part of a large family of loggers across our state, the misuse of drugs is here and growing and we need to be aware of it and look for the signs of drug misuse within our crews.

If anyone has been trying to hire people, you know the sometimes beyond-frustrating experience it can be to find good, reliable people. The fluctuating nature of our business on top of this can really add to the headaches. I am not trying to forecast doom and gloom for the future; it is actually just the opposite. But it will take all of us working together to make a difference.

The first step is to break the stigma that swirls around the idea of someone being an addict. We need to call it what is and that is a disease. As with any disease, there are treatment options available. Let us back up a little first. On most jobs, if a person is not performing well, has trouble making it to work every day, or is mouthy to their fellow employees or boss, the usual result is termination and, in most cases, rightly so. If the problem with that employee is the misuse of drugs, what if instead of just getting them off your job site, you were to offer that person information that could get them help? Or, maybe you need help yourself? There are many resources available.

To give a little background on what kind of money is being put into this battle against addiction, I will give you a few numbers—and you may have to do a double-take on them. This should just emphasize even more the problem we are dealing with. Research on this subject can really send you down some rabbit holes, but sifting through it all has been a real eye opener!

The Biden/Harris administration has allocated 1.5 billion dollars to “all states, tribal lands, and territories to address the opioid crisis and to support individuals in recovery.” All of this is being paid for by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a department in our federal government that you probably have never heard of before. The following list breaks down the amount of money that West Virginia, as well as its surrounding states, will receive. I rounded all the numbers to keep it simple, but the amounts are staggering anyway you look at it!


  • West Virginia – $44 million
  • Pennsylvania – $80 million
  • Ohio – $97 million
  • Maryland – $51 million
  • Kentucky – $35 million
  • Virginia – $27 million

This funding also provides for Narcan and training in its use. Narcan or Naloxone is a nasal spray that offsets the effects of an opioid overdose. My personal opinion is that it should be on every logging site in every first aid kit. If you have an employee overdose on opioids in a remote location that will most likely be the only way they can be saved. There are many logging companies I have worked with that have dealt with drug problems over the years and support and help was limited. That is not the case anymore. There are a lot of resources we can tap into that can bring those who need help the ability to find it! One of the best resources is Help4wv. They can be reached at 1-844-help4wv, www.help4wv.com, texting at 304-394-7754, or a TTY option for those with speech and hearing impairments at 304-396-3267. This site has information dealing with every aspect of addiction. From detox, to rehab, and into recovery. They have a children’s crisis and referral line and also help with depression, anxiety, developmental disorders, and other mental health issues. They take calls 24/7/365, so if you need information “right now,” they can help guide you to the resources you need. There are rehab centers around our state as well as others and having that information available to you can make this journey “easier.” www.Help4wv.com can also direct to AA and NA meetings in your area.

I have been working in recovery for almost two years and I can fill these pages with stories of addiction and recovery. I personally work with a faith-based recovery program out of my church, Crosspoint Assembly of God, and we host a weekly life recovery bible meeting. This meeting uses the twelve steps intertwined with the scripture to lead people through a faith-based recovery. We also have several Hope houses we work with. These are 3/4 houses for men in recovery (3/4 means no medical staff on site). There are also several women’s houses too, but they are connected to a different ministry, and we have seen promising results with the men and women who start their lives over at one of these facilities. The point I am trying to make is they need help from us to get there. The process of “getting clean” is one that takes several steps (twelve). Let us not ignore that fact, and instead be part of the solution in giving someone that second chance we all deserve. I know the logging business is filled with good, caring people that in most cases do want to help, so let’s put into place among our own crews what to do if there is a drug problem. As the saying goes, “sometimes it takes a village.” This can really come into play here! During the craziness of Covid, loggers were deemed “essential.” I believe we are that and more as we battle addiction in our workplaces and our homes! I have worked with several hard-working dedicated loggers and see it happening with more in the future, so we are never truly alone in this battle! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions—I would be glad to help. Through our faith and dedication, we can keep up the good fight.