In West Virginia, deaths from overdose rise to the highest in the U.S.

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan declares a state of emergency after 1,468 citizens die in just 9 months from heroin use. Local hospitals call in volunteer “cuddlers”, as babies, born addicted, tremble and cry.

In Colorado, one oil and trucking company scrambles to replace 80% of their employees after federally mandated drug tests return positive.


The U.S. drug epidemic is undeniable. Marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine use continue to rise, as overdoses surpass even car accidents to become the leading cause of death of Americans under 50. Quest Diagnosis, an innovative developer of testing products, released reports indicating the number of American workers using illegal substances is at its highest level in 12 years.

Included in these results, are opioids— including prescription painkillers and heroin, which have become the leading cause of overdose deaths. President Trump and congress have named opioid addiction one of the biggest challenges facing our country.

Analysts blame several factors, including “drastic increases in the number of prescriptions written and dispensed, greater social acceptability for using medications for different purposes, and aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies.”  These painkillers often serve as a gateway into the cheaper, but similarly structured drug, heroin, which reached 20-year high in 2016

The legalization of marijuana for recreational use has also contributed to our nation’s drug crisis. So far 8 states, plus the District of Columbia, have passed laws to legalize, and in two of these, Colorado and Washington, marijuana use has risen to double the national average.

As if these challenges weren’t enough, highly habit-forming methamphetamines are back with a vengeance and wreaking widespread havoc, after a short-lived hiatus.  Methamphetamines, like painkillers, often lead to heroin use as addicts attempt to “take the edge off their highs.”


This growing usage comes at a steep cost to the U.S. economy. With more than half of U.S companies requiring pre-employment and/or regular testing, myriads are failing, leading to company losses and labor shortages. These shortages are particularly pronounced in “safety sensitive” workplaces, including manufacturing and construction.

Construction, perhaps, has taken the hardest hit. Rober Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders blames the opioid epidemic for worsening the industry’s labor shortage that began after the 2007 housing market crash. Dietz says, “The impact of increasing numbers of Americans addicted to painkillers and other drugs has resulted in lower labor force participation, particularly among Americans who have less than a four-year college degree. This makes recruiting more workers into the trades that much harder.”

Painkillers are widely used by construction workers, due to the nature of their backbreaking work. Many start on hydrocodone for an injury, and simply can’t wean off. Some turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative. “Does it impact the safety and productivity and operations of the job? Oh my gosh, the lack of coordination, the judgment. It’s just like having somebody drunk on the job. It’s a huge risk for employers,” says Karen Pierce, employee at Working Partners Systems.

The risks of users on the job are significant, and extend beyond the obvious—lives. One Florida construction company, totaling about 150 laborers, estimated they lose $57,386 annually due to employee’s substance abuse which causes rapid turnover, wasted time, stolen goods and high health care costs.


So where can companies turn to for workers? Many are finding answer in the growing refugee community.

Cary Quigley, president of Sterling Technologies, in Erie, Pennsylvania, made CNN headlines this past spring with his innovative approach to hiring amidst the area’s growing heroin epidemic. Cary, and other companies are quickly catching on to a largely untapped labor pool—the refugee workforce.

“[We] need to seek out employees somewhere. And for now, immigrants are a really good source of that labor,” said Shannon Monat, a rural sociology professor at Penn State.

A very good source, indeed. Refugees are not only eager to enter the workplace, but studies show that immigrants have lower rates of substance use than U.S. born citizens. In fact, “U.S. born persons were 3-5 times more likely to experience lifetime substance abuse or dependence than first-generation immigrants.

Every refugee faces the stress of finding housing, food, and employment. For many, this weight is on top of the unimaginable terrors they faced before, and while, leaving their native country.

While even less severe situations cause many to stumble into the unrelenting world of drug and alcohol abuse, experts found that the majority of refugees simply aren’t willing to take the risk. After working hard to re-build, fear of losing their home, job, and privileges, and the need to provide for their family keeps these new arrivals on the straight and narrow.

Our experience at Amplio backs these statistics. Since our establishment in 2015, 100% of applicants who have come through our doors have passed our required drug test.


Sterling Technologies is not the only company jumping on the quickly accelerating refugee hiring train. Hundreds of companies across America are adding refugees to their payrolls and reaping the vast benefits of increased morale, productivity and dependability that result from a drug-free and motivated workforce.

Some hire from need, as Americans fall prey to substance abuse. Others hire out of social responsibility, or to make a political statement. Regardless of reason, companies like Chobani, comprised of over 30% refugee employees, are leading the way in proving the utility and fortitude of the refugee workforce.

What about you, your business—where will you fall on this issue? Could the refugee workforce add stability, productivity, and morale to your culture? Would you join with other innovative companies like Starbucks, Walmart, and Chobani to make an investment in the refugee community?

If the answer is yes, we would love to partner with you to find the right fit for your company. At Amplio, we are committed to providing you with a legal, drug-free, and motivated workforce, powered by refugees.

Contact us today to learn more about our diligent screening and staffing services, or visit our website at