Can Employers Prevent Drug Abuse in the Workplace?

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Can Employers Prevent Drug Abuse in the Workplace?

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 widespread concern about 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.  They can promote initiatives that focus on improving health. These programs should also 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.

In this article, we take a look at possible impacts of drug abuse in the workplace.  We will also look at costs of problematic substance use to an organization.  Plus, we will explore how 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, employers are increasingly trying to curb the problematic effects of drug abuse and addiction.

These problematic effects include:

  • 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

Employees who abuse drugs are two to five times more likely to get fired or quit within the first year of employment. They are also more likely to file workers’ compensation claims.  Violence and injuries are also possible.  These individuals will repeatedly 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 use at work costs U.S. business owners more than $140 billion every year. Therefore, preventing excessive alcohol use and drug abuse increases an individual’s chances of better health, longer and productive life. It also results in a massive increase in company productivity.

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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 the illegal sale of drugs 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 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. More progressive enterprises should have an understanding of costs, nature, and sheer scope of the ‘epidemic.’ As a result, they should place a much greater emphasis on the identification and rehabilitation of severe drug use problems. However, it is so unfortunate that many small businesses don’t have 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 confidential and provide help for an employee to remain in 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 should be 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. Furthermore, supervisors and managers should know how to identify and deal with drug use issues.  They should also be aware of 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. Approximately 68.9% of all drug users in the U.S. are employed, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. This shocking revelation is a clear indication that educational and drug testing programs are paramount.

Drug testing can be done before hiring and during the employment period. By doing this, it helps organizations to identify drug-abusing employees. Also, they can minimize the risk of hiring new employees who could be drug users.  Additionally, they will save a considerable amount given towards employee compensation or health care, and curb the substance abuse among the employees. Further, it ensures the prevailing of a drug-free workplace environment that promotes positive attributes like work culture, safety, employee productivity, professionalism, and etcetera.

Typically, employee drug testing uses hair follicles, urine, and saliva.  Urine drug testing identifies commonly abused drugs.  But, hair follicle testing is non-invasive and often performed in laboratories. Urine testing is done using test strips and provides reliable and accurate results. Saliva testing is also non-evasive and offers instant results. In this way, only efficient and productive employees are retained.

Unfortunately, there is a limited number of facilities to meet the clinical demand for drug testing.  This remains a major hindrance in combating substance abuse in the country. Thankfully, reputable drug testing centers are in place to ensure addiction treatment is always a call away.

Road to Recovery in Battle Creek, MI

The problem of substance abusers affects virtually everyone in an organization. However, they can be successfully treated, and get back to work to offer as a productive employee. Businesses should put in place programs, policies, or procedures that curb the economic impacts induced by substance abuse. Therefore, employers ensure that the organization has a zero-tolerance towards drug abuse by employees. At A Forever Recovery, we work with employers and their employees to promote a drug free work place to get employees back and track to a drug-free lifestyle. Contact us today.


  • nsc.orgDrugs at Work: What Employers Need to Know
  • – Drug-Free Workplace Implementation Guide

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