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Workplace Drug Abuse

The Problem of Workplace Drug Abuse

Of all drug users, 68.9% are employed and active in the workplace, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).

Additionally, 1/3 of all employees are aware of illegal sale of drugs in their workplace, according to the TN Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

How Do Employers and Employees Suffer?

Using drugs impairs decision-making abilities and physically impairs people. This is a deadly concoction when on the job. In fact, 10-20% of American workers who die at work have a positive result when tested for drugs or alcohol. A study by OSHA states that the most dangerous occupations, such as mining and construction, also have the highest rates of drug use by their employees.

Employers suffer from hiring substance abusers in many ways. Not only do they run the risk of having deadly or dangerous accidents occur, but substance abusers also cost employers money and hurt them financially.

Substance abusers may:

  • Have poor work performance.
  • Frequently call out of or arrive late to the workplace.
  • Frequently change workplaces.
  • Struggle with productivity.
  • File for workers’ compensation claims and benefits.

Prevention of such problems occurs by implementing an effective workplace drug program that deals with drug testing before hiring, drug testing during employment and consequences for violating the rules. A majority of employers (57%) conduct drug testing on job candidates, according  to a poll by the Society of Human Resource Management.

Find Out How Much Drug Abuse Costs Your Business

Many employers are aware of how much mental illness can cost their business, but the potential cost of substance abuse is often overlooked, resulting in a shocking disparity between the help that employees need and the help they receive. Fortunately, a new online calculator from the National Safety Council allows businesses to get an estimate of how much addiction may be costing their company.

This tool can help encourage employers to look for ways to identify and assist employees who are struggling with substance abuse, which can make a huge difference in the lives of both the individuals and the business.

Drug Testing and Educational Programs

While large businesses typically have assessment or drug testing programs in action, many smaller businesses cannot afford to do so. This is a critical error, as drug users will generally apply only at places that do not have mandated drug testing. Drug testing and educational programs have been proven to provide benefits such as:

  •  Increased morale.
  • Decreased workplace accidents.
  • Reduced employee theft.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Reduced employee turnover.
  • Decreased cost of insurance, such as workers’ compensation.

In essence, drug programs are worth the cost of running them to employers. They provide a safer environment for employers and increase the productivity of existing employees, which boosts revenue.

How to Create an Effective Program

An effective workplace drug program establishes a list of procedures to follow with regard to illegal drug use, such as:

  • Testing.
  • Prevention.
  • How to handle infractions of the policy.

This should be an informative list that is detailed in nature. Rules and expectations should be thoroughly explained within the text. The ideal program both enforces a clear policy and acts as an outlet for those who may have a problem and would like to seek help. The term “illegal drugs” should be precisely defined in the text.

A quality employee assistance program (EAP) should be made available to those who feel they may have a problem as well as those who feel they’re developing a problem. A quality assistance program will offer services such as counseling to deal with substance abuse problems.

These programs are put into action by familiarizing supervisors with the procedures. Be sure that all supervising staff members are knowledgeable of the drug code that is to be enforced. All supervisors should be comfortable with the material and able to answer questions pertaining to it. Supervisors should also know the signs and symptoms of drug abuse.

After the supervising staff members are comfortable with the material, it is their task to begin educating other staff members. All staff members should understand the program and understand what drug rules exist and any details about drug testing and drug assistance that is available to them.

Educational programs that could be beneficial to employees include:

  • Drug awareness day.
  • Written material about substances and substance abuse.
  • Videos pertaining to drug use in the workplace.

How to Know if Someone Is Abusing Drugs

Drugs have different effects on people. Some signs can be confused with common illnesses, while others are very obvious.

Coworkers who frequently have accidents, exhibit erratic behavior, and have dilated pupils or slurred speech may be exhibiting signs of intoxication. Other common signs include:

  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Paranoia.
  • Glassy eyes.
  • Noticeable exhaustion.
  • Frequent absenteeism.

If you notice these symptoms, it is time to tell a supervisor.

What to Do if You Suspect Someone Is Using Illegal Substances

If you feel that someone in your workplace is using illegal substances, you need to tell a supervisor as soon as possible. This can either be a manager, a member of the security team or a human resources officer. You can do this privately or outside of work if it makes you more comfortable.

Never feel that you are risking a coworker’s job. This is the biggest reason that employees withhold their suspicions, and this is a deadly mistake. By not telling someone, you are contributing to the likelihood that an accident will occur. Reporting your suspicions can also prompt an addict to seek treatment.

If you feel that you have a substance abuse problem, do not suffer in silence. Please call to speak with someone who can help.

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