Substance abuse in any workplace comes with colossal disadvantages. Employees indulging in drugs or alcohol abuse put their personal health as well as their families’ financial condition at grave risk. Substance abuse also causes many serious problems for business and industry, ranging from lost productivity, injuries, absenteeism, and an increase in health insurance claims. According to a recent report by The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI), in the United States alone, the loss to companies due to substance abuse totals over $100 billion a year.

The abuse of drugs and alcohol happen on account of a number of reasons, including misguided ones like a person trying to forget problems at home, socially, or at work. If used regularly, substance abuse tends to be habit-forming and cause physical and psychological dependence on people. The end result of this fascination with, and use of, these substances is usually devastating for the abusers and others along the way. A prolonged substance abuse heavily weakens decision-making abilities and physically impairs people. This is even more damaging when on the job; in fact, 10-20% of American workers who die at work have a positive result when tested for drugs or alcohol.

If productivity and efficiency are badly hit due to drug and alcohol abuse at the workplace, company managements have every right to fire their employees. However, if employers wish to be a bit off-the-wall and help their staff, there are many constructive solutions to address this scourge of addiction at the workplace. The fact is finding effective ways to curb workplace addiction is never easy. To begin with, it is always a tremendous shock to discover that a trusted and good-performing employee is abusing drugs or alcohol. However, with constructive intervention and treatment, employees can be brought back to their normal life.

Here are the effective solutions for curbing workplace addiction:

Employee Assessment Programs (EAPs)

Establishing an employee assessment program is one of the most effective ways to address alcohol and drug problems in the workplace. The goal of EAPs is to resolve short-term problems and refer substance abusers for additional help for long-term solutions. Under these programs, there is a positive counseling to employees in areas such as workplace relations, legal, financial, behavioral aspects of substance abuse. An employee having drug or alcohol abuse problems is likely to miss work, has a low level of productivity, and develops a poor relationship with colleagues. Thus, using EAPs, employers/managers can provide the tools needed to confront the addiction along with an encouragement to seek help. The EAPs can provide referrals to substance abuse counselors and rehab facilities. Employers can address substance abuse in their employee population by implementing drug-free workplace and substance abuse policies. EAPs may also include health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance abuse disorders, including aftercare, reducing stigma at the workplace and employee education. If EAPs make employees seek help, it can lead to increased employee productivity and low levels of absenteeism. Improved employee wellbeing under EAPs goes a long way towards achieving individual help, and subsequent company health.

Drug Testing and Educational Programs

Many big businesses usually have drug testing policies in the workplace. Many small businesses, however, apparently cannot afford to do so. This might prove to be a critical error for substance abusers will generally apply only at places that do not have mandated drug testing. Therefore, drug testing and educational programs have the following benefits:

  • Increased morale
  • Lower number of workplace accidents
  • Decreased employee theft
  • Reduced employee altercations
  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased employee churn
  • Safer environment for employees

Substance Abuse Treatment Programs at the Workplace

Employers need to make sure that their workstation is ready for drug-free policy and programs by informing, educating, training, and motivating every stakeholder. In the event of preparing substance abuse treatment programs, the employer, human resource staff, supervisors, and employees must have a role. The treatment for substance abuse should be proper and pragmatic. Many people involved in substance abuse are given certain prescription drugs that reverse the effects of a drug overdose – Narcan or Naloxone is one of them. Thus, the side effects of Narcan must already be known before administering it.

Successful preparation for treatment program includes:

  • Employers should incorporate a framework that counteracts the denial and manipulation associated with drug or alcohol abuse because even the most problematic substance abusers will not risk their primary source of income. Employers, therefore, need to enforce certain policies and demands on employees, effectively pushing them to accept their addiction problems and seek help.
  • Since it is often difficult to hide or disguise addiction problems at workplaces, peers or supervisors should notice problematic behavior and be willing to take affirmative action.
  • Documented evidence and videos should be promoted that highlight the impacts of substance abuse on personal and professional life.
  • Employers should ensure that everyone in the workplace understands that a drug-free workplace is more likely to be a safe, healthy, and productive workplace.
  • Once an employee agrees to seek drug or alcohol treatment program in the frame of reference of the workplace, their progress should be monitored. It is better if they are less likely to leave treatment early or inadequately engage in the treatment process.

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