How Should Employers Deal with the Drug Epidemic?

The outbreak of drug use in the U.S. is forcing many small company owners to take the time and think about what they would do if they suspect an employee is consuming drugs or alcohol. The odds of drug abuse issues finding their way into your business are large. Based on the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2011 nationwide investigation on drug use and wellbeing, of the 18.9 million adults recorded with dependence or abuse, nearly 52 percent were employed.

“A lot of employers overlook the signs,” says Cali Estes, an expert drug and alcohol counselor who works with companies and individuals dealing with substance exploitation in the office.

There are many physical signs, obvious ones such as bloodshot eyes and residual alcohol smell. Other signs of drug abuse and alcohol addiction include consistent absences, arriving at work late and leaving early. Some drugs may make the user energetic, so someone who is up and on foot around all the time and who looks really full of activity, but isn’t getting anything done might be expressing signs of addiction, Estes states.

The price of substance abuse in the workplace causes major problems in both small and large companies. For example, if an employee drinks on the job, uses illicit drugs or abuses recommendation medications is more likely to be injured or to make mistakes on the job. The individual is also more likely to overlook their duties and have disagreements with superiors and coworkers. While it is vital that each owner has a drug-free place of work, an employer must also have an empathetic approach toward those who abuse drugs or alcohol.

Addiction is like any other illness. It can strike anyone at any socioeconomic level—even the most devoted and skillful workers. Rather than taking a penalizing approach toward substance abuse, employers may find a more positive response in giving their workers the chance to get addiction treatment. It is pertinent that business owners or supervisors try to be compassionate with them and show sympathy instead of harshness or other penalties.

Substance abuse can take place in businesses of any kind, but it may be especially destructive to small businesses, which may not have the resources to grow or enforce drug-free workplace policies. Employees who have an ongoing drug or alcohol problem may be more likely to search for jobs at smaller companies where drug-screening policies are more relaxed or not a part of the hiring process.

The losses related with employee drug abuse can include not only costs pertaining to a worker missing work and higher worker’s payment costs but also higher insurance rates. Drug and alcohol abuse in employees can harm to a company’s reputation in the industry. Competitors can take advantage of these rumors and degrade your company profile in the industry, rumors can be spread that can be damaging.

Employees in active addiction are known to be more likely to steal from their employers, lie or transfer the fault for their mistakes onto other workers, and have characteristics that are negative. Giving your employees the chance to go through a comprehensive drug or alcohol addiction rehab course — possibly for the first time — will eventually save your company money. It may also save an employee’s life.

Aid for Employees

The formation of a drug-free workplace isn’t just about casual drug testing or having penalties for employees who use drugs. Employers should recognize that a substance misuse disorder is a physical state. This is a situation that can be treated with a proper addiction care plan, just like any other health concern. Employers should conduct their business the surrounding in such a manner that employees feel safe to express about their issue of drug addict. A big part of these situations should be handled by the human resources department, the responsibilities typically would fall under that department inside of a business. They should give them confidence of being treated instead of penalized, and all cases should be handled with care and confidence.

Employers can assist their workers in gaining access to alcohol and drug addiction recovery services in several ways:

  • Give a group health indemnity plan that includes coverage for substance abuse treatment or counseling
  • Give employees who abuse drugs the choice to seek treatment in private without fear of repercussions
  • Communicate with employees who may be abusing drugs in a constructive, non-confrontational way
  • Encourage employees who are under pressure at work or home to discover healthy ways to handle emotional tension

How to Notice Employees Who May Require Help

It’s not always an easy task to recognize employees who have a substance use disorder. Individuals in active addiction have become very good at hiding their drug or alcohol problem.

In some instances there could be cases where an alcoholic worker may take a two-hour “liquid lunch” or a heroin addict may nod off at his desk, but most employees in active addiction are high performing workers. An employee may never even use drugs or alcohol at work. However, employees in active addiction may instead call in sick regularly or display disturbed, violent or unfocused behavior on the job. There are many different signs, so it is important for human resources and supervisors to know all warning signs of addiction and know the proper way to deal with these instances.

Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Changes in behavior or character
  • Poor cleanliness of self and work area.
  • More time is required to do common tasks
  • Increase in poor decisions
  • Failure to meet targets or show up for arrangements
  • Unexpected displays of absentmindedness or puzzlement

The only way to combat addiction in the workplace is to make sure employees have access to proper addiction treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Classes and training sessions should be a part of their yearly additional courses required for employment. There are a number of drug rehab facilities and making sure insurance plans include proper treatment should be included in every company’s policies.

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