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Can Employers Prevent Drug Abuse in the Workplace?

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Today, the growing menace of drug abuse in the workplace has raised apprehension in various socioeconomic strata. Thankfully, the awareness that the abuse of drugs may affect employees is rapidly rising in acceptance. Recently, there has been a widespread concern on whether employers can address the issue of drug abuse in the workplace. The answer to this vexed question is YES!  The workplace provides an excellent opportunity to curb drug use and influence of other psychotropic substances.

Ways to Prevent Drug Abuse in the Workplace

Employers can play a very integral role in helping to make treatment as successful as possible by promoting initiatives that focus on improving health. These programs should offer benefits that support various services like interventions, confidential screening, counseling, self-management programs, peer support groups, medications, and follow-up treatment and recovery. The best way to achieve this is by conducting pre-employment and routine fitness-for-duty alcohol and drug testing to check addiction and ensure health for optimum productivity.

In this article, we take a look at possible impacts of drug abuse in the workplace, costs of problematic substance use to an organization, and how the employers can efficiently deal with such issues. Many organizations understand that almost all aspects of the workplace require alertness, quick and precise reflexes. For this reason, the employers are increasingly trying to curb the problematic effects of drug abuse and addiction including:

  • Stress-related or psychological effects induced by substance use by a co-worker, friend, or family member that affects other employees’ productivity
  • Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs to other employees
  • Interfering with concentration, attention, efficiency, and accuracy while at work
  • Reduced productivity, illness, and absenteeism
  • Addiction-related crime, injuries, or accidents
  • After-effects of drug use (withdrawal, hangover) affecting job performance
  • Any other impact on an employee’s emotional state, motor coordination, perception alertness, and judgment that impacts making safety-sensitive decisions or working safely

Costs of Problematic Substance Use to an Organization

According to National Safety Council, employees who abuse drugs are two to five times more likely to get fired or quit within the first year of employment, file workers’ compensation claims, be violent or injured at work, be late for work, or take unexcused absences. In any of these cases, employers often take the responsibility which can at times translate to more than $3,200 a year for every employee who abuses drugs. In fact, researchers believe that drug abuse costs U.S. business owners more than $140 billion every year. Therefore, preventing excessive alcohol use and drug abuse increases individual’s chances of better health, longer and productive life. It also results in a massive increase in company productivity.

What Can Employers Do to Prevent Drug Abuse in The Workplace?

According to the TN Department of Labor & Workforce Development, roughly more than 30% of all employees are aware of illegal sale in their workplace. For this reason, it is critically imperative for employers to engage in the prevention of drug use by implementing effective workplace substance policies and programs. These long traditions of initiatives should emphasize on the benefits to the victims, their families, employers, and the economy of preventing addiction to drugs.

Furthermore, the treatment programs should help to maintain an individual’s recovery from substance abuse and relapses. For more progressive enterprises, they are supposed to have a deepened understanding of costs, nature, and sheer scope of the ‘epidemic.’ As a result, they should place a much greater emphasis on the development of broad consensual partnerships at workplace focused on the identification and rehabilitation of severe drug use problems. However, it is so unfortunate that many small businesses, unlike large organizations, don’t have assessment or substance testing programs in place. Here are some ways through which employers can deter drug abuse in the workplace.

Employee Assistance Programs

Without a doubt, one of the most effective ways to deal with drug abuse in the workplace is the establishment of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP’s are supposed to be confidential and provide whatever help that makes it possible for an employee to remain on or return to the workplace. Usually, the programs may be operated in-house by agency personnel and are staffed by professional counselors. These programs provide help to workers facing a range of personal difficulties like mental and emotional problems, alcohol and drug abuse issues, care concerns, and financial issues, marital and family issues.

Drug Use or Impairment Policies

Additionally, organizations can have drug use or impairment policies. They ought to be very detailed and informative. Typically, a drug abuse policy should be far-reaching with provision for disciplinary action, ways of assisting drug users, employee’s rights to confidentiality and everything in between. Further, supervisors and managers should be enlightened on how to identify and deal with drug use issues and how employees can be offered educational programs. An effective program may include videos about drug use in the workplace, written materials about substance use and abuse, and maybe a drug awareness day. Though it’s not the employers’ responsibility to diagnose a possible drug use or dependency, they should spot an impaired employee, and take the appropriate measure as stated by the organization’s policy.

Drug Screening/ Drug Testing Programs (DSPs) and Educational Programs

Another strong strategy of preventing the ‘epidemic’ is integrating drug-free workplace campaigns and using workforce drug testing. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, approximately 68.9% of all drug users in the U.S. are believed to be employed and in active employment. This shocking revelation is a clear indication that educational and drug testing programs are paramount. Ideally, drug testing can be done before hiring and during the employment period. By doing this, it helps organizations to identify drug abusing employees, minimize the risk of hiring new employees who could be drug users, save considerable amount given towards employee compensation or health care, and curb the substance abuse among the employees. Further, it ensures prevailing of drug-free workplace environment that promotes positive attributes like work culture, safety, employee productivity, professionalism, and etcetera.

Typically, an employee drug testing can be efficiently performed using hair follicle testing, urine testing, and saliva testing. Although commonly abused drugs can be identified during routine urine drug testing, hair follicle testing is non-invasive and often performed in laboratories. The urine testing is done using test strips and provides reliable and accurate results. The latter, saliva testing, is also non-evasive and offers instant results. This test will ensure that only the efficient and productive employees are retained. Unfortunately, the limited number of facilities to meet the clinical demand for drug testing is still one of the major hindrances in combating alcohol and drug abuse in the country. Thankfully, reputable drug testing centers are in place to ensure finding a perfect addiction treatment is always a call away.

Road to Recovery

Though the problem of substance abusers affects virtually everyone in an organization, they can be successfully treated, emerge with an immense recovery and get back to work to offer a full load of productivity with good health. Businesses, large and small alike should put in place programs, policies, or procedures that curb the economic impacts induced by abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Therefore, employers should not give up the fight in ensuring that the organization has a zero tolerance towards drug abuse by employees. In a nutshell, the workplace can be a perfect place to deal with substance abuse issues.

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