The Miami Coalition Surveys of Employee Drug Use and Attitudes: A Five-Year Retrospective (1989-1993)

Article excerpt

The past fifteen years have been characterized by popular concern with increased drug abuse as a societal problem. It became a workplace issue because of the relationship between substance abuse and employee productivity, health care costs, and legal liability risks. These concerns led to passage of the Drug-Free Workplace Act (1988), which mandated the adoption of substance abuse policies and employee assistance programs by federal contractors.

In metropolitan Miami (Dade County, Florida), business and civic leaders were concerned about the negative image of Miami as the illegal drug capital of the United States. This image was fueled by lurid news accounts of international drug trafficking by "cocaine cowboys" and popular television programs like "Miami Vice." In 1988, the Miami Chamber of Commerce sponsored a community-wide effort, led by the Miami Coalition, which assessed the impact of drugs on the community, recommended policies and programs to combat substance abuse in schools and the workplace, and evaluated the prevention program effectiveness over a five-year period.

The first objective, baseline assessment of the impact of drugs on the workplace, was accomplished through five annual workplace surveys conducted from 1989 through 1993. In these surveys, employees of major public and private employers in metropolitan Miami took voluntary surveys regarding their attitudes toward and use of drugs.(1) The fourteen-page survey was developed by a team of researchers at Florida International University and the University of Miami. The survey asked employees about their attitudes toward a variety of legal and illegal drugs (including alcohol), their past and current drug use and their awareness of employers' substance abuse policies and programs. To enable comparison with national norms, the survey closely patterned the instrument developed for the national household survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).(0)

Validity and Reliability of the Miami Coalition Workplace Survey

The survey instrument incorporated items from various field-tested and validated sources including National Institute of Drug Abuse household surveys and original items developed for the Miami Coalition. For more detailed information on the reliability and validity of the items, consult original NIDA documents.(3) Given the similarity between the Miami Coalition and NIDA items, there is no reason to suspect differential reliability and validity for the two instruments.

Survey Administration

The survey was administered by volunteer proctors organized by the Miami Coalition, with the cooperation of employers who contributed their employees' time and allowed for completion of the surveys at their work sites. Administration of a detailed, sensitive survey requires that both employers and employees be volunteers. Therefore, the sample of employees used was not random. Nor did the sample comprise the same employees over the five-year period. Hence, longitudinal analysis of the results over time is not appropriate. Because the number of employees responding has grown each year,(4) results are increasingly likely to be representative of major Dade County employers, public and private. Participating organizations include education, banking, manufacturing, sales and service, and utilities, among others.

The volunteer proctors administered the survey at the participating employer's work-site. The proctors received training in survey protocol and were unknown to the respondents. Surveys were printed in both English and Spanish and, upon completion, were placed in a box at the work site immediately delivered to a local university for analysis.

The NIDA survey was based upon a national probability sample where randomly selected household members were interviewed in their homes. Respondents also completed self-administered questions to cover sensitive areas. For a more detailed treatment of the NIDA survey protocol, see the main NIDA report. …