Substance Abuse & Addiction in the Workplace

Tips and Guidelines for Effectively Managing Substance Abuse in the Workplace

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), almost 75 percent of American drug and alcohol users are employed and active in the workplace. This means that approximately 13 million workers in the United States actively use alcohol and drugs in the workforce. These figures can be interpreted in many different ways, but the truth is that alcohol and drug abuse does not bypass the working world. The frequency and severity of substance abuse varies across industries and the potential consequences are virtually limitless. On this page, you will read about how substance abusers negatively affects the workplace, signs of alcohol and drug abuse, prevention techniques, assessment strategies, and finally, treatment options for alcohol and drug addicts.

Why should employers care about substance abuse?

Employers should care about workforce substance abuse for a number of different reasons. First, alcohol and drug abuse can cost an organization a significant amount of money in terms of productivity losses, workplace injuries, increased health care expenditures, and disability payments. Also, individuals who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol at work can potentially cause harm to other employees. Employees could face physical danger if the workplace is hands on environment with machinery, vehicles or labor. There are also risks for mental and emotional harm. When an individual is battling substance abuse, he or she can cause excess stress, worry, guilt, or other negative consequences that may damage working relationships and overall productivity. Lastly, employers should care about the health of the people who work hard for their organizations. Personal struggles are not inevitable. In order to build the most successful business possible, business owners need to take a genuine interest in the well-being of their valuable employees.

Employee drug and alcohol programs that include drug testing, educational programs and substance abuse resources have been proven to provide a variety of benefits:

  • Improved working relationships

  • Increase productivity and morale

  • Fewer accidents in the workplace

  • Reduced employee turnover

  • Decreased insurance costs

  • Fewer workers’ compensation claims

  • Increased trust among coworkers and clients

  • Increased revenue

What are the signs of employee substance abuse or drug addiction?

Every individual will display signs of substance abuse in a variety of ways. The effects of substance abuse will manifest in different ways depending on the drugs being used, duration of abuse, cross-addictions, age, body composition and other factors.

Employees with substance abuse often display certain behaviors that correlate with drug and alcohol use:

  • Failure to perform obligations at work

  • Showing up late to work on a regular basis

  • Leaving early without valid reasons

  • Poor concentration

  • Decreased efficiency

  • Strained relationships with coworkers

  • Careless errors or mistakes

  • Risky decision-making

  • Disregard for safety precautions and/or internal policies and procedures

  • Disheveled appearance

  • Multiple excuses justifying performance or behavior

  • Legal issues

  • Financial problems

  • Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drugs

  • Continuing to use drugs and alcohol despite negative consequences

How can employers prevent substance abuse in the workplace?

Effective substance abuse prevention starts by creating and implementing a workplace drug program for all employees. These types of programs often include drug testing prior to hiring decisions, strict rules pertaining to drug and alcohol use, education, wellness programs, drug testing during employment, and clearly defined consequences for infractions. It is important to have your Human Resources department or a top-level executive explain the alcohol and drug use policy to every new employee. Make sure that he or she understands what is acceptable and what behaviors would be cause for termination. Also, it is important to explain what resources are available to employees if they develop a problem with alcohol and drug use. By taking a proactive approach to substance abuse in the workplace, employers can acquire the information they need to minimize problems and effectively deal with issues as they arise. Alcohol and drug programs provide a safer work environment for the organizational members while increasing productivity, and thus, revenue and profitability.

When is it appropriate to approach an employee about his or her drug addiction and alcohol use?

The issue of alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace can be a sensitive and uncomfortable topic, but it’s important to address issues as they arise. Every situation will be different. In order to professionally discuss substance abuse, employers should adhere to a few guidelines. To begin, employers must respect the individual at fault. Never pass judgment or shame the employee – it will only make the discussion more difficult. That being said, substance abuse in the workplace is a serious matter and should be addressed as such. Utilize the drug and alcohol policy you have created as a tool to facilitate the conversation. Point out specific instances in which the individual violated workplace rules and describe how their substance abuse has negatively affected the company.

As an employer, you must rely on your previous experience with the individual in question, the facts, and your intuition about the situation at hand. Business owners could utilize a monitoring program for future performance and behavior, suggest a temporary leave of absence to seek treatment, or decide that termination is the best option. Just remember that you have the responsibility to do what is best for your organization.

What addiction treatment options are available to employees struggling with substance abuse?

If you are an employee struggling with substance abuse, you have a variety of rehabilitation options. If you feel comfortable, go to your Human Resources department or another trusted top-level executive and ask for help. If your company provides health benefits, you will likely have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers confidential counseling and substance abuse treatment services. If you don’t feel like you can talk to your employer without jeopardizing your job, contact your insurance provider to see if they cover drug and alcohol treatment. If so, find an addiction rehabilitation facility that provides treatment in your area.

Many outpatient drug and alcohol rehabs offer flexible scheduling to accommodate people’s day-to-day responsibilities at work. Outpatient substance abuse provides individual counseling, group therapy, educational classes, coping skills and other valuable tools for staying sober. There are outpatient treatment programs that are designed specifically for professionals, which can help participants relate to each other in terms of substance abuse in the workplace. In order to find a reputable program, research local treatment facilities, ask questions, and read reviews. The decision to enter an outpatient substance abuse rehabilitation center is scary, but it will likely be the best thing for you.

If you need help finding a trusted substance abuse treatment facility, contact GetRehab.Info.