It is well documented that using drugs and alcohol impairs decision-making abilities and physically impairs the person. Unfortunately, no business, regardless of its size, type, or location, is immune to substance use problems.
It is estimated that around 70% of adults with an alcohol or illicit drug use disorder are employed.
Nearly 9% of all employed adults have current alcohol or drug use disorders.
Ideally, workplaces should provide workplace-supported recovery programs, where employers use evidence-based policies to reduce multiple risk factors. According to the CDC, a recovery-supportive workplace prevents exposure to workplace factors that cause or perpetuate substance use disorders. In addition, it reduces barriers to seeking care, receiving care, and maintaining recovery. It also educates its management team and workers on issues surrounding substance use disorders to reduce stigma.
Workplace Drug Use Prevention Practices
Workplace drug and alcohol prevention programs have proven to be effective. The most common elements of these programs include drug testing, education and prevention, and internal policies surrounding drug and alcohol use in the workplace.
Drug testing programs do involve a risk of substantial legal liability when conducted improperly. It is common for workplace drug testing to violate federal, state, and local laws. Employers are advised to consult with legal counsel before implementing these policies.
Education and Prevention
Drug and alcohol education and prevention is the best first line of defense. Beneficial educational programs include drug awareness days, written material about substances and substance use, and media pertaining to drug use in the workplace.
Ideally, this should include quality employee assistance programs made available to those who feel they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Workplace-supported recovery programs often support second-chance employment and provide workplace accommodations and other return-to-work assistance.
Promote a Positive Work Culture
The best way to reduce the stigma of addiction is to promote a work culture and climate that is supportive of workers in recovery. Prevention and education could include awareness building, stigma reduction, and alcohol-free and health-focused social events.
Any workplace can engage in the following activities to mitigate the risk factors:
- Workplace Policies Concerning Drug Use
These policies should be clear and transparent. It should also define the reasons for the policy and what is prohibited regarding substances and behaviors. Finally, it should include the persons covered by the policy and any disciplinary consequences and appeals process. It should also recognize the recovery process.
- Education and Prevention Resources
Supervisors and employees may be providing training about drugs, the health impacts, how it impacts behavior, etc. This could be done through in-person or online training.
- Supportive Work Environment
Managers could possibly evaluate work environments to minimize adverse working conditions that contribute to increased levels of employee substance misuse.
- Stigma Reduction Through Education
Someone who has experienced a substance use disorder or is in recovery experiences stigma. Part of the education process should include recognizing that addiction is not a moral failing and that recovery is possible.
- Supportive Resources
Employers can consider evaluating employee assistance and health insurance plans to ensure adequate coverage. With the appropriate training, support programs can also be utilized with co-workers and peers.
- Create an Environment that Does Not Promote Substance Use or Excessive Drinking
Evaluate and reduce substance use norms, which include drinking alcohol. After-work drinking rituals can often undermine individual recovery efforts.
How to Know if Someone is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol
Legal and illegal drugs all have different effects on people. More often than not, signs can be confused with common illnesses. However, there are some common red flags: