An employee with a substance abuse problem can be hazardous to the health of any company. The use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace can increase costs and bring about unpleasant and uncomfortable results. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of substance abuse in the workplace.
Significant consequences can occur with even a moment’s lapse of attention. They include:
Individuals who have substance use disorders (SUD) typically have a habit of missing work. It’s common for an addict to have a friend or family member call his or her workplace to report that he or she won’t be going to work.
If your coworker seems to be taking frequent extended trips to the restroom or other questionable absences, there may be a problem. Addicted people will often find private places to inject a drug, sleep off the effects of drug use, or pass out. It’s possible that they are feeling nausea, vomiting, or displaying other side effects of substance abuse that make restroom visits more frequent.
Job performance frequently takes a nosedive when getting drugs, using drugs, and recovering from using drugs are a person’s most important focus.
Whether they are actively using drugs at work or not, individuals with substance addictions will make mistakes and have accidents. It may be due to lack of sleep or the mental and physical stress of addiction. While not all of the incidents may be serious, a series of small mistakes may be evidence of a substance problem.
As time goes on, people suffering from substance addictions will often direct their attention to obtaining, using, and recovering from their drug use. Eventually, they may even come to work unwashed and in clothes from the day before as their grooming habits decline.
When the suspected substance use is actually witnessed by a coworker, it needs to be reported to management and/or the Human Resources Department. If you are the manager, supervisor, or a member of H.R., you will follow the company policies as to what to do next.
It’s important to remember that even though the above signs indicate substance use behavior, any or all of them may be the result of a disability or some other performance issues. That’s why it’s necessary to follow any guidelines laid out by the company when it comes to substance abuse in the workplace.
If you think that a coworker is using substances on the job, it is a serious problem and you should take steps to handle it quickly. But you need to approach the issue carefully because it’s critical to follow your company’s policy regarding this situation. These are some steps you can take before reporting the suspected substance abuse in the workplace:
If you suspect that a co-worker is committing substance abuse in the workplace, you’ll need to make a written record of any unpredictable behavior, failure to meet job requirements, or inappropriate comments along with the date and time. This information will be necessary when the time comes to make a report.
The H.R. department at your company has specific training and procedures about actions to take when a worker is suspected of using drugs or alcohol at work. Start by speaking to a member of H.R. instead of going to your supervisor. The human resources people will be able to advise you on what you should do to report drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace.
Among American workers, the abuse of alcohol and drugs creates expensive social, medical, and other problems that affect both the employees and employers.
Employee substance abuse can:
The NCADI (National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information) has reported that alcohol and drug users:
NCADI has estimated that about $100 billion per year is lost to American companies because of drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. Associated expenses of redirecting company resources to substance abuse problems that might have been used for other items are not included in that number. It also doesn’t include the “pain and suffering” factor that can’t be measured with money.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. (NCADD) has established that the cost of drug use to employers in this country is $81 billion per year. In an attempt to cut down on this huge expense, employers try to only hire people who are sober to discourage the use of drugs at work.
Companies try to accomplish this through the use of pre-employment testing. However, despite spending large amounts of money on pre-employment testing, MCADD estimates that about 70% of the approximately 14.8 million Americans who are substance abusers are also employed.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported that when the issue of substance abuse at work is challenged by creating programs that can include anyone in SUD treatment, it is a positive situation for employers and employees.
A study on the economic effect of treatment for SUDs in Ohio showed noteworthy improvements in job-related performance evidenced by:
This study proved that all companies can enforce a substance abuse policy in the workplace that can reduce the loss of productivity and restore a safer work environment for all employees.
You may ask a job applicant if he or she has ever used illegal drugs in the past or are currently using drugs before offering that person a job. This is fine if the questions aren’t likely to bring out information about past addictions.
Likewise, before making the offer of employment, you may not ask about the frequency or amount of drugs the person has used in the past or whether they took part in a drug treatment program. That information is likely to expose a drug addiction.
But after offering a job to the applicant, you may ask about the severity of the person’s past drug and alcohol use as long as it’s:
The ADA protects certain qualified individuals with disabilities and requires reasonable accommodation for employees protected by the ADA.
Additionally, the ADA:
When dealing with substance use disorders, employers need to be careful unless the disorder has a negative effect on the workplace regarding job performance, attendance, or behavior. In cases like those, the employee will be held to the same standards as other employees.
Any company policies that relate to substance use are answerable to ADA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. This is in addition to any state workplace drug testing and other applicable laws.
Even though the ADA forbids discrimination against people with disabilities, it doesn’t protect a person who is currently using illegal drugs as an “individual with a disability.” According to the ADA, an employee can be fired if he or she is using drugs or alcohol on the job or if the substance use has caused the following things:
If your employer finds out that you are receiving substance abuse treatment, you can’t be fired for taking time off to enter treatment. Under the Act, chemical dependency is a disability. If you enter substance abuse treatment voluntarily, you can’t be fired for going to treatment or for past mistakes that resulted from drug or alcohol abuse.
Studies have shown that there are several factors that can contribute to drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Factors that encourage substance abuse in the workplace include:
Workplace culture can have a big influence on whether drinking and drug use are encouraged and accepted or not. The mix of genders can help form the culture of a work environment. In predominantly female occupations, both male and female employees are less likely to have SUDs compared to employees in male-dominated occupations.
Male-dominated workplaces tend to foster heavy-drinking cultures where employees drink to encourage solidarity and show conformity. Due to this, these jobs have higher alcohol and drug-related issues.
Work that’s stressful, boring, and isolating can lead to substance use by employees. Substance abuse by employees has been linked to:
A huge influence on employee drinking on the job is the availability of alcohol in the workplace. Out of 984 workers in a large manufacturing plant surveyed, more than two-thirds reported that it was “easy” or “very easy” to bring alcohol to work, to drink at work stations, and to drink during work breaks. In workplaces where alcohol is prohibited, rates of drinking on the job and drinking, in general, are substantially lower.
The amount of supervision in the workplace can have an effect on the amount of drinking and drug use on the job. A study of shift workers who worked evenings when supervision was reduced revealed that the employees were more likely to drink at work than during the more closely supervised shifts. In addition, the existence and enforcement of substance abuse policies in the workplace have an effect on the risky use of substances at work.
Are you having trouble getting through the workday without the use of a drug or alcohol? Or do you have someone close to you that’s problems committing substance abuse in the workplace? This doesn’t have to be your life or theirs. At Grace Land Recovery in Memphis, Tennessee, we have seen this issue many times and are experienced in helping people struggling with this problem.
You can get control of your substance abuse problems before it’s too late. Grace Land can create a treatment program that will help you get your personal and work life back on track. With several outpatient programs, case management, and aftercare, we will work with you every step of the way on your way to achieving recovery. Let’s do this together. Contact us today.