A Guide to Managing Substance Abuse in the Workplace

woman being scolded at the office

Substance abuse among employees is a serious problem faced by many organizations. Workers struggling with drug and alcohol misuse are prone to lowered productivity, tardiness, and lack of discipline, among others. As such, business owners must deal with this problem promptly and efficiently.

Impact of addiction on the office

Drug and alcohol abuse can create an unhealthy work culture and put other workers in immediate danger. They can weaken an individual’s decision-making skills as well as his physical health. This can cause several issues in the office including but not limited to:

  • Absenteeism
  • Accidents and deaths
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Frequent personal or sick days
  • Higher turnover
  • Illegal activities at work such as selling illegal drugs to co-workers
  • Lack of discipline
  • Loss of efficiency and productivity
  • Lower employee morale
  • Poor decision making
  • Tardiness/sleeping on the job
  • Theft

Memory problems, slurred speech, and intense fatigue on or off the job, are some physical signs that a person may be dealing with addiction. Substance abusers are also likely to exhibit unnatural behavior and conduct such as being overly quarrelsome and moody. They often avoid social interaction during breaks or may not even show up to work at all.

Victims are constantly preoccupied with acquiring and using substances. These thoughts can interfere with their attention which in turn affects their work performance. Employers may observe drastic drops in productivity and frequently missed deadlines.

However, exhibiting any of these signs doesn’t necessarily indicate an addiction problem. Victims typically display multiple signs at once. It’s also common for substance abuse to occur in groups of two or more employees.

group therapy

Prevention and support

There are several ways an employer can address substance abuse in their organization. While ignoring the situation or simply firing the employee may be the easiest way out, both solutions can bring disastrous consequences in the long run.

If you suspect that employees have a substance issue, direct them to professional treatment and drug rehab as soon as possible. Consider adjusting their workload and offering time off work to seek help. Maintain regular meetings with the employee to track their health and progress. Offering workers various types of support will make them feel valued and motivated to improve their lifestyle. Many substance abusers avoid getting the help they need due to fear of losing their jobs. Assuring them of their job security may also drive them to commit to long-term treatment.

Having a drug-free workplace involves implementing strict policies related to drug testing. Draft appropriate disciplinary actions and make sure management knows how to recognize the signs of substance misuse. When there is suspicious behavior, or you receive a report from another employee, make sure to document all observations. Your records will help in persuading the victim to get treatment.

Lastly, the culture of the workplace can trigger harmful drinking and drug use. As such, consider introducing programs that can help in preventing stress and burnout. Keep reasonable work hours, be realistic with task assignments, and schedule activities that promote physical and mental wellness. After all, the health and well-being of employees is key to the overall success of the company.

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