Most people are aware of the disastrous effects that drug and alcohol use can have on employees in the workplace. Many of us can comment on experiences with coworkers, friends and relatives struggling with substance use problems at work. Take a few minutes to reflect. Have you had a coworker call in sick after getting drunk the night before? Maybe you’ve had doubts about a supervisor who never seems to be at his post when you need help. Maybe you have lost respect for coworkers after watching them behave foolishly at the annual Christmas party after a few too many drinks. Some may argue that the gregarious, playful intoxicated employee is merely amusing but not dangerous. But then again, when an agitated addict in the throes of withdrawal curses out his subordinates or steals vital office equipment to support his habit —that is not funny.
Employers and managers should know the following sobering statistics:
- Alcohol is more likely than illicit drugs to be involved in crimes against people.
2. Drug and alcohol problems are one of the top reasons for the rise in workplace violence.
3. Drugs account for nearly 80% of losses due to theft in the workplace.
4. One out of four substance abusers in treatment admitted stealing from their employer.
5. Most Americans who use illicit drugs (74%) are employed.
6. Of those who called a cocaine help line, 64% admitted that drugs adversely affected their job performance.
When these items are taken into consideration, it’s no wonder why research confirms that drug abuse costs corporate America 85 billion dollars per year. These costs are related to decreased productivity, absenteeism, medical leave, theft and violence related liability.
With these issues in mind, what can you do as a manager to prevent substance abuse from impacting your workplace?
First of all, you can create a drug-free workplace policy. Encouraging a safe workplace environment is the first step. Another important process is fostering sensitivity, education, and treatment if necessary for drug abuse. You can get information about substance abuse prevention and treatment options from the resources listed at the end of this article. You should get legal advice if you have identified a problem worker. The Americans with disabilities act prohibits employers from firing individuals simply because they have illnesses such as substance abuse. Use private security resources, contact law enforcement and prosecute criminal activity. Finally, keep in mind that substance abuse is a treatable illness. If you have an employee who you are concerned about, you should consider a workplace consultation with a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist with workplace issue experience can help identify areas of concern, assess the employee’s motivation for treatment and make necessary referrals. The workplace consultant can also work with personnel to draft an appropriate plan of action.
Support groups – These are non-profit organizations that offer support to those in recovery as well as family and friends who wish to understand the illness of addiction.
Narcotics anonymous – 202 399-5316 – This number provides a listing of groups in the Washington metro area for people who want to start and maintain recovery.
Naranon – 202-783-4727 – This organization provides support and a healthful approach to those coping with issues caused by addicted family members and friends. You do not need to have proof of a relative’s addiction to meet membership requirements.
Alcoholics Anonymous – Baltimore – 410-663-1922
Annapolis – 410-268-5441
DC and PG – 202-966- 9115
Alanon – 202-882-1334 – For friends and family of alcoholics
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – workplace.samhsa.gov
Focus Adolescent Services – www.focusas.com
Narconon – www.stopaddiction.com
About the author of this article:
Kim B. Jones-Fearing, MD is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist in private practice in Burtonsville and Columbia Maryland.