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Drug Use & The Workplace

Drug Use & The Workplace

Depending on what type of business you run, it may be difficult to determine if your employees are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In HR, HR Management, Strategiesfact, the number of employees who are currently using substance may be shocking to you, with more than 200 million people of our population using drugs and alcohol in 2012 according to ABC News. Still some employers are in denial about drug use in their work force. The use of substance by employees can cause an organization potentially millions in profits and unintended costs.

Substance use in the labor force

It's first important to understand who in the labor force is using drugs. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, "in 2009 the majority (67%) of current drug users aged 18 or older were employed, full time (48%), part-time 19%, unemployed accounting for 13% and remaining 21% not in the labor force."

According to the same report, part time employees were more likely to use illicit drugs. In fact statistics from 2009 revealed that 1 in 6 part time employees reported drug use, compared to 1 in 12 full time employees.

Clearly there’s a contingency of employees that are troubled by substance use and can cost your business millions of dollars, mostly due to inefficiency on the job. It's important to recognize if employers are using substance or even under the influence at work, especially if their job involves operating machinery or anything that can put themselves and others in danger.

Alcohol isn’t the only substance

It's important to remember that alcohol is not the only substance that can impact job performance. Prescription drugs and marijuana can have a serious impact on attention span, basic motor skills, reaction time, and focus – all things an employee needs to do their job properly. Some employees may even get sick from their drug use which may cause them to continually call off from work , costing you and your company money due to lack of productivity.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the breakdown of costs in 2007 for drug use in the United States was around $193 billion dollars, which included:

  • An estimated $120 billion in productivity loss
  • An average of 11 billion in health care costs
  • $61 billion in criminal activity such as incarceration or victim costs.

Signs of substance use

There are a few obvious signs that your employee is using substance heavily. Look for indicators such as:

  • blood shot or red eyes
  • the smell of alcohol
  • shaking
  • erratic behavior
  • extreme anger or outbreaks at the work place

A sudden change in work ethic or personality is also a clue. If you're not in a position where you can view your employee's behaviors on a daily basis, you may want to consider mandatory drug testing for a new hire and random drug testing for current employees. This will deter some employees from drug use but not all of them.

If you think you're employee is using drugs it is sometimes hard to decide whether to eliminate the person because they are not doing their job correctly or allow them to go away to a drug program to get help.

Don’t Accuse

It is very important to not accuse your employee. When finally speaking with them, do so in a calm manner. Ask if they need help, or want help. It's important to also not involve other employees. When speaking with an employee it should be either one-on-one or an intimate group, involving too many people will make the person less likely to speak freely or ask for help.

Remember: People who use drugs are not necessarily bad people, but may not have other avenues of dealing with stress, depression or life's mishaps. For them drug or alcohol use is something to get them by each day instead of dealing with a problem over time, but it's important to remember that anyone can change their life. If you feel an employee has great potential in the future it may be to your benefit to help them out. Ultimately you have to look at what is best for your organization and your bottom line.

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Melissa is the content writer for Saint Jude Retreats – a unique residential retreat program for those trying to overcome problems with substance use. She has worked extensively with non-profits in the past to create drug free work zones, and now leads the content development for St Jude's. Along with being a manager in her former work experience, she has a Journalism Degree from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and has studied sociology as well.

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