Impact of Addiction in the Workplace

 

 


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Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace is an expensive and widespread problem throughout the country. While it may seem counterintuitive, the majority of those struggling with a substance abuse issue are able to maintain a steady job. In fact, over 7 in 10 people who abuse illicit drugs are able to maintain employment, according to research data from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

While it is easy to turn a blind eye to “functioning” employees with a substance abuse disorder, organizations across the nation are quickly realizing the glaring necessity to address the impact of addiction in the workplace.

In the United States, estimates point to the nearly $81 billion of profits lost in the hands of addiction. Some of the most common causes of lost profits due to substance abuse are:

  • Increased turnover rates

  • Decreased productivity

  • Over-utilization of sick days

  • General healthcare costs

  • Workplace theft

  • Growth in absenteeism

  • Reduction in work quality

Drugs and alcohol have a clear and concerning impact on organizations and businesses in each and every industry. Most addicts in the workplace claim to be “high-functioning”, pointing to their ability to maintain professional success in spite of their addiction. Nevertheless, there is a notable and stark difference between “high-functioning” and healthy, leading to costly damage in the workplace on a broad scale.

Signs of Workplace Substance Abuse

Addicts tend to have a knack for disguising their substance use, particularly those who are able to maintain a job while doing so. As such, it is critical that employers and coworkers be on the lookout for certain signs and signals that indicate an addiction may be impacting an employee’s performance.

From work pressures to stressors at home to workplace culture, there is a wide range of reasons that a person might turn to drugs or alcohol. Drugging and drinking in the workplace has been proven to be caused by a number of factors. At any rate, recognizing the impact of addiction on the workplace is the first step in addressing the issue.

The following are some of the most common signs of workplace substance abuse:

  • Frequently calling in sick or arriving late

  • Work performance starts to decline

  • Productivity takes a hit

  • Discusses money issues openly

  • Vents about relationship issues at home

  • Hygiene or personal appearance starts to decline

  • Erratic behavior

  • Decreases in overall morale

  • Injuries or accidents start to occur more frequently

  • Multiple trips to the bathroom

  • Missing deadline and appointments

  • Conflicts emerge with coworkers

  • Trouble concentrating on the task at hand

Identifying the above symptoms on a consistent basis should alert a coworker to an employer that a substance use disorder may be present. Being proactive in recognizing the most common signs of workplace substance abuse is vital to addressing it head-on.

Workplace Substance Abuse Prevention

There are a number of ways that an organization or business can take active measures to prevent substance abuse at work. Being hands-on and proactive is essential in developing a workplace culture that addresses addiction through a variety of methods.

  1. Policy: establishing a substance use policy is critical, as employees must be aware of where the company stands on workplace drug and alcohol use.

  2. Screenings: while drug testing laws vary by state, performing random drug tests (if state law allows) is a surefire way to discourage the workforce from using.

  3. Educational Seminars: hosting regular workshops or seminars to address substance abuse, particularly geared towards a specific industry, is extremely helpful in educating the workforce about the prevalence of workplace addiction and the risks associated with drug use.

  4. Resource Center: be an advocate for help by providing useful resources for those who may be struggling with substance use – something as simple as posting the location of local AA/NA meetings can go a long way.

  5. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): establishing EAP programs are an excellent way to offer addiction treatment support and encourage employees to seek recovery.

A prevention plan is an essential part of keeping a workforce healthy and sober. By implementing one or all of the above prevention strategies, the workplace will be positioned to combat addiction proactively.

Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Addressing substance abuse in the workplace is more important than ever before. Whether it is a huge corporation or a small business, tackling workplace addiction directly through policy implementation and education is critical. The role of employers is dynamically growing to be less about punishing employees who have a substance abuse problem, and more focused on finding innovative ways to provide workers with support and services, to assist them in pursuing lifesaving care for themselves or a loved one. When done so correctly, the result is inevitably increased productivity, financial savings, and a safer work environment for the entire organization.

+ Sources

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/workplace-stigma-addiction-2018010513040

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/working-on-addiction-in-the-workplace-2017063011941

https://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/toolkit/assess-workplace

https://counseling.steinhardt.nyu.edu/blog/overcoming-addiction-in-the-workplace/

https://www.verywellmind.com/substance-abuse-in-the-workplace-63807

 

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