Drug and substance abuse is a significant problem in the workplace. It is estimated that approximately 70% of illegal drug users are employed and of all working adults, 7% are heavy drinkers (Wickizier et al., 2004; Slavit & Reagin, 2009). In this paper, the issues relating to on-job drug use, employer responsibility in assisting drug-addicted employees and the type of workplace programs effective in curbing this vice will be explored.
On workplace issues related to substance use, empirical evidence suggests that substance abuse is strongly correlated with the risk for occupational accidents and injury, absenteeism, turnover, reduced productivity and disciplinary actions. The risk for occupational injury due to substance abuse ranges from 50 to 100 percent. The variance depends on the type and amount of substance used, and frequency of use. It has been established that employees who use drugs are two times more likely to ask for time-off. Every year, such employees cost businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity, health care expenditures, accidents, injuries and disability payments (Wickizier et al., 2004; Slavit & Reagin, 2009). The cost of health care for an addicted employee is approximately twice that of a non-substance user (Slavit & Reagin, 2009).
Employers have a responsibility to assist their drug-addicted employees. Substance-abuse is a health related problem and employers are mandated by law in most countries to provide medical insurance cover for their employees. Additionally, the proportion of employees with the problem is, according to statistics, overwhelming. As such, it will be cheaper in the long-run to assist such employees than to keep hiring new ones. Addicted employees also pose a serious risk to the safety of their colleagues particularly in jobs with a high-risk for injury. As such, to ensure the security of other employees as well as protect the interests of the business, employers should help workers with substance use problems.
A number of workplace programs have been found effective in identifying and treating employees with addictions. These programs include drug-testing programs and peer intervention programs. Peer intervention programs focus on altering workplace attitudes towards substance abuse. Employees are trained to recognize, provide appropriate interventions, and refer their colleagues with substance use problems (Spicer & Miller, 2005). These programs can be buttressed with drug-testing procedures for more efficacy. The effectiveness of all workplace drug use programs hinges on a comprehensive written policy detailing the expectations of the employer on drugs as well as the consequences of breaching this policy. The policy should also contain information relating to the training of supervisors and other managerial staff, employee education and structures for employee assistance (Wickizier et al., 2004).
In conclusion thus, the common workplace issues related to drug use include absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased risk for accidents and injury amongst others. In light of these issues, employers have a responsibility to assist addicted employees. They can do this by instituting work place programs such as drug-testing and peer-based intervention programs.
Slavit, W.I., & Reaging, A. (2009). An employer’s guide to workplace substance abuse: Strategies and treatment recommendations.
Spicer, R. S., & Miller, T. R. (2005). Impact of a workplace peer-focused substance-abuse prevention and early intervention program. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental
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Wickizer, T.M., Kopjar, B., Franklin, G., & Joesch, J. (2004). Do drug-free workplace programs prevent occupational injuries? Evidence from Washington State. Health Services Research, 39(1), 91-110.