The rate of drug abuse among the homeless has been conservatively estimated at better than 50 percent. Chronic mental illness is inextricably linked with drug abuse. In Philadelphia, nearly half of the VA’s mental patients abused drugs. The prevalence of drug use within the homeless population is substantially higher than that found in the general population.
While a small percentage of drug court participants have steady jobs at the time they enter the program, a substantial number (generally more than 65%) are unemployed or employed only on a sporadic basis. (Many of the individuals who are employed at the time of entry into a drug court program report that they were able to retain employment by demonstrating participation in the drug court. Additionally, a high proportion of unemployed individuals obtain employment while participating in a drug court program).
In Arizona, as in most states, working while under the influence of illegal substances is grounds for termination of employment. Additionally, Arizona's unemployment compensation law may disqualify an individual from receiving benefits if the employee is discharged for willful or negligent misconduct associated with employment. Misconduct includes, among other things, repeated intoxication, whether from the use of intoxicating liquor or the use of illegal drugs on the employer's premises or when reporting to work, as well as a violation of any rule of conduct or safety. Misconduct also includes failure to pass, or refusal to take a drug test or alcohol impairment test administered by or at the request of the employer. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 23-775 (1993), § 23-619.01 (b) 1994.)
According to Arizona Revised Statute § 23-493.05, an employer may take adverse employment action based on a positive drug test or alcohol impairment test. On receipt of a positive drug test or alcohol impairment test result that indicates a violation of the employer's written policy, on the refusal of an employee or prospective employee to provide a drug testing sample or on the refusal of an employee to provide an alcohol impairment testing sample, an employer may use that test result or test refusal as a basis for disciplinary or rehabilitative actions that may include any of the following:
- A requirement that the employee enroll in an employer provided or employer approved rehabilitation, treatment or counseling program, which may include additional drug testing and alcohol impairment testing, participation in which may be a condition of continued employment and the costs of which may or may not be covered by the employer's health plan or policies.
- Suspension of the employee, with or without pay, for a designated period of time.
- Termination of employment.
- In the case of drug testing, refusal to hire a prospective employee.
- Other adverse employment action.
Unemployment is one of many serious repercussions of using illegal substances.
Increased efforts by law enforcement to reduce substance abuse and narcotics trafficking have resulted in the arrest, prosecution and incarceration of tens of thousands of persons each year for crimes associated with the possession and use of illegal drugs. Drug offenders account for more than one-third of the growth in the state prison population and more than 80 percent of the increase in the number of federal prison inmates since 1985.1
In 1996, a voter's referendum in Arizona referred to as the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act (Also known as Proposition 200) rewrote the statutes for drug possession. Simply put, the first time a person is convicted of possession of marijuana or other illegal substances, the law requires a sentence of probation and drug counseling. The second conviction also earns a probation sentence but can include jail time. After a third conviction, the defendant can be sentenced to prison.2
However, in Arizona, more serious drugs carry increasingly stricter penalties, such as substantial prison terms and large fines. A person arrested for possession of illegal drugs may often be charged with a felony.
There is no question that drug abuse is not only costly and harmful to the user, but to society as a whole.
Substance Abuse: The Nation’s Number One Health Problem, prepared by the Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2001.
Michael Kiefer, The Arizona Republic, July 26, 2004
New Jersey Judiciary
Juvenile Drug Courts: Strategies in Practice
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