An Employers Guide to Preventing Drug Use in the Workplace

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By: SUPE Editorial Team

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.

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.

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.

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Drug Testing

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.

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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.

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Internal Policies

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:

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Frequent Accidents

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Erratic behavior

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Dilated pupils

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Lack of concentration

Test Your Knowledge

Guide to Preventing Drug Use in the Workplace

A recovery-supportive workplace prevents exposure to workplace factors that cause or perpetuate substance use disorders.

What are the most common elements of workplace drug and alcohol prevention programs? (Choose 3)

What are some warning signs and symptoms of drug use?

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SUPE IS A NONPROFIT PLATFORM FUNDED AND HOSTED BY DRS. IT IS THE DRUG EDUCATION AND PREVENTION SECTION OF DRS & ADDICTED.ORG.

IT WAS CREATED TO FURTHER DRS’ MISSION TO EDUCATE PEOPLE AND TO PREVENT SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER.