Workplace Alcohol Abuse
- Table of ContentsPrint
- Benefits to Creating an Effective Workplace Alcohol Program
- Effective Alcohol Programs in the Workplace
- What to Do if You Suspect Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is easily the most widely abused substance in the United States. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently released its National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which reported that, in 2013, more than half of all adult Americans drank alcohol. This percentage corresponds to an estimated 134 million drinkers. Of this number, close to 15 million hold full time employment and, additionally, can be described as "heavy drinkers".
The consequence of heavy drinking exacts a toll on the workplace. The exact cost of this burden on employers is hard to calculate, as the figure is based on a number of factors--absences, lost productivity, health care costs for associated medical issues, malpractice costs for accidents to the drinker or co-workers, etc. If a workplace covers it, one must also factor in the cost of any alcohol treatment programs that employees might undergo.
Workplace Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 1
Employers are keenly aware of the issues that arise from employee alcohol use and abuse. Many strategies have been developed to address the problems when they arise, or to prevent them before they do. Some of these strategies include workplace policies or programs mandating drug and alcohol testing to both potential hires and existing employees.
Typically, there are consequences to violation of these policies that should be outlined as part of the employee guidelines. The majority of large businesses already have such programs in place. Even small businesses have begun to take the issue seriously and, as a result, implement their own programs to tackle the issue. While there certainly is a cost to the employer to maintain such programs, they are proven to benefit the workplace environment in the long run on a number of levels such as:
Workplace Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 2
- Increased safety
- Increased employee morale
- Decreased workplace theft
- Increased productivity
- Reduced employee turnover
- Decrease in the amount of employer insurance payments
Credit: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD)
Benefits to Creating an Effective Workplace Alcohol Program
Workplace Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 3
Workplace alcohol and other substance programs have a clear benefit to the companies who embrace them. By setting up assistance programs and encouraging treatment for their employees--via referrals to various local treatment resources or information services--businesses, companies and other types of employers can play a hand in reducing the huge negative burden of workplace alcoholism. And, despite the price of maintaining such programs, it is highly likely that employers will ultimately decrease company costs. Improved employee well-being coupled with a boost in productivity goes a long way towards a picture of improved individual help, and subsequent company health.
Effective Alcohol Programs in the Workplace
Workplace Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 4
More than 50 years ago, the first employee assistance programs were created and, at that time, were specifically created to address workplace alcohol issues. These programs were established to help existing personnel who were struggling with alcoholism by encouraging 12-Step program participation. Attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings was frequently a requirement for continued employment once the drinking problem had been made known to the employer or company. Today, most programs have expanded to recognize and address drug abuse in addition to alcohol abuse. As part of the hiring process, an effective workplace alcohol and drug program will clearly delineate company policy towards the use of such substances, and establish the consequences of deviating from the policy. Ideally, a program will include a no-tolerance stance for alcohol consumption during business hours, or for missed work due to drinking outside of the office.
Despite the existence of a no-tolerance policy, should an alcohol problem arise with an existing employee, that individual should feel safe in approaching the employer for help. Employers should work to remind workers of such programs, as it is frequently reported, after-the-fact, that these programs would have been utilized more if their existence was more obvious.
Supervisors and or human resource workers should be trained to detect burgeoning alcohol problems before they become dangerous. With proper training, and with some amount of vigilance, it becomes easier to detect the signs pointing to possible alcohol or drug abuse. Educational materials (videos, written, periodic conference sessions) can help educate the entire workforce to assist in the detection of someone who might need help.
Some employees might be unclear themselves if what they are experiencing is an alcohol issue serious enough to seek help or treatment. Self-assessment tests, such as the one below, can prove helpful for such individuals:
Workplace Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 5
What to Do if You Suspect Alcohol Abuse
Above all else, it is important for the health and safety of you and your co-workers, to bring the possible issue to a supervisor's attention. This can be carried out privately and anonymously.
Fear of retribution or of risking a co-worker's job by inquiring about these issues should not be a deterrent. Ignoring, or keeping to yourself on a potentially life-threatening issue such as alcohol abuse could only perpetuate the problem, and compound the consequences for everyone in the shared workplace environment. By expediently acting on suspicions, you could be ultimately helping those in need seek the treatment that could save their lives.
Workplace Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 6