Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Places of employment should be safe and healthy environments in which to work. Employers manage safety teams for security, hazardous waste, and other possible problems that might endanger their workers. But some employees are bringing their personal hazards to work. The American Council For Drug Education reports that employees who suffer from substance abuse are causing workplace accidents, higher medical expenses, and are negatively impacting employee morale and productivity at work.

While the U.S. suffers the highest rate of workplace substance abuse, world leaders have gathered together to try and incorporate substance abuse prevention into their businesses in the hopes that they can help their employees avoid or curtail an addiction.

Safety Jeopardized

The American Council For Drug Education reports that 40 percent of industrial fatalities occur because of substance abusers. Those who abuse substances are nearly three and a half times more likely to have accidents at their workplace. While those who abuse substances are five times more likely to injure themselves in their workplace, they are also jeopardizing the health and lives of others.

As other employees see substance abuse poison the workplace, their confidence and enjoyment of their workplace may fall. They may fear for their safety around others they suspect may be intoxicated and may even be angry at their employer for not taking action against suspected or repeat abusers.

More Financial Losses, Less Productive Gains

With more workplace accidents come more expenses in Worker’s Compensation and other medical expenses. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that those who abuse substances consume twice as many medical benefits as other employees. Frequent accidents caused by drugs or alcohol can raise medical premiums for everybody.

Not only can medical bills incurred by accidents related to substance abuse eat away at a company, the substance abuser may often be too impaired to be productive for the company. Hangovers, arriving late or leaving early, or preoccupation with cravings and spending work time involved in substance abuse activity all cuts time spent supporting the company and its other employees.

Working at Prevention

Employers are working internationally to help their employees avoid and recover from substance abuse in order to help make their companies stronger. One program supported by the International Labour Office (ILO) has successfully helped more than half of its participants decrease their substance abuse issues. Started in 1995, the program has led to an international establishment called the Association of Resource Managers against Drug Abuse (ARMADA).

The object of the program is one focused more on prevention than on treatment. The awareness of supervisors, co-workers, and other staff can help support their co-workers. The program classifies employees with substance abuse in different levels that help indicate their need for help. Some employees already afflicted with substance abuse problems will be helped with intervention and treatment, but there will also be a “zone” that helps to assist those at risk for substance abuse.