Are you noticing an employee’s work beginning to slip? Is he or she showing up late, or missing workdays consistently without warning? Is your employee isolating at the office, or displaying sudden changes in appearance or grooming? If so, your employee could be abusing drugs.
More than 70% of drug users in the United States are employed and actively using drugs in the workforce. If you suspect your employee is abusing drugs, it’s time to seek help. Drug abuse on the job can lead to accidents, legal problems and death.
How to Help Your Employee
Recreational drug use is not okay in the workplace, and can lead to addiction – which can cost the company a lot of time, money and resources. Fortunately, there are safe, confidential ways to help an employee with a substance abuse problem.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide all employees, at no cost to them, with accessibly to counselors. EAPs can help with relationship issues, substance abuse problems or any issue preventing an employee from successfully performing his or her job.
More and more companies require employees to take drug tests. However, these tests can be easy to tamper with and ‘cheat,’ which causes many employers to look the other way, which can waste a lot of company financing. After all, a positive drug test could mean termination or pushing the employee into drug treatment, which uses more money and resources. Employers should never shirk their duties to provide a fair drug test, and based on the results, should reprimand employees as the company sees fit.
Employers can also encourage preventative care or early intervention for employees by providing incentives for regular doctor’s visits. They can host educational events to help employees learn the benefits to staying clean, or create a culture in the workplace that focuses on healthy living.
Employers can also provide insurance plans for their employees that cover substance abuse treatment and mental health care, if needed.
Intervention Could Save Your Employee’s Life
Treatment is the best, most helpful option, and workplace interventions are designed to encourage your employee to enter treatment. These should always be carefully planned and executed by a professional interventionist, who can work with your employee to assess the situation and place him or her into the right treatment program that will ensure long-term recovery.
Call 877-640-1943 to learn more about our treatment program, and get your employee the help he or she needs.
Q&A: Drug Use in the Workplace
Treatment Solutions interviews Gerald Shulman on identifying drug use in the workplace — and what you can do about it. We will focus on illicit drug use, but we want to emphasize that alcohol is a drug, as well as prescription medications. Many of the same ideas apply, and drug abuse of any type should be taken seriously, and acted upon quickly.
Gerald D. Shulman, M.A., M.A.C., FACATA, has a 50-year history of providing direct treatment services and clinical supervision, and administering treatment programs in single and multi-site systems in the not-for-profit and proprietary sectors. He is a licensed psychologist, a Master Addiction Counselor and a Fellow of the American College of Addiction Treatment Administrators. He is an author of all three editions of the ASAM Patient Placement Criteria, and provides extensive training and implementation consultation on the Criteria, co-occurring disorders, treatment planning and documentation, relapse prevention and evidenced-based practices. He was a workgroup facilitator for CSAT’s Tip #26, Substance Abuse Among Older Adults. Shulman is committed to helping treatment programs and systems provide persons with substance use disorders appropriate clinical services with an efficient and cost-effective approach.
Let’s start with the basics. How prevalent is drug abuse in the workplace? Very. Statistics show that 75% of illicit drug users are employed, and 60% of adults know someone who has gone to work under the influence. You can see from these statistics that there is a high probability that someone with whom you work is struggling with addiction or drug abuse. Overall, some industries are more affected by illicit drug use than others, many of which are represented by organized labor unions. These include, Food Service, Bartenders, Construction, Retail, Transportation, Helpers/Handlers and Laborers.1
What impact does drug abuse in the workplace have on other employees? In many jobs, employees depend on each other for their own safety. Employees who use drugs are less likely to do their share of work, putting burden on the rest of the team, and their coworkers may fear their erratic and unpredictable behavior. Imagine how you’d feel if the person operating the crane above your head had a drug problem; drug use can affect the entire safety and trust of the workforce.
What impact does drug abuse have on a business’ overall bottom line? Work places that don’t have a drug-free policy experience three-times-higher turnover rates. Workers comp claims are five times higher than in drug-free workplaces. There is much higher healthcare utilization, morale problems, damage to a company’s external reputation and more frequent grievance procedures — which tie up Union reps, managers and employees. The list goes on and on.
…Any statistics that approximate the loss of revenue as a result of workplace abuse? During a 12-month period, almost 3 million workers will show up at work under the influence of drugs. That accounts for 3% of the entire workforce, and one-in-three workers know of drug sales in their workplace. It is estimated that drug abuse costs companies 500 billion dollars a year, 60% of which is caused by lost productivity alone. A worker who is using drugs is 50% more likely to be involved in a workplace incident, and has a 10 times higher absenteeism rate than a sober co-worker. A surprising statistic is that two-thirds of the people involved in workplace violence test positive for illicit drug use.
If an employer or fellow employee suspects a coworker may be abusing drugs in the workplace or is under the influence at work, what are the signs to look for? There are many signs. If you suspect drug use, compare the employee’s current work to his or her past. Are there more errors? Is the quality of work slipping? Have they been absent more often or taking longer breaks? Have they been tardy or leaving early more often than usual? Though these signs don’t necessarily point to drug use, these signs — when combined with physical symptoms such as exhaustion, dilated pupils, slurred speech, erratic mood swings and red or glossy eyes — should certainly raise serious red flags.2,3
What if an employee suspects someone in management — or even a high-level executive — is abusing drugs? Accusing your boss of having a substance abuse problem doesn’t seem conducive to job security. This is a tough question. It can be a risk to one’s continued employment to report a supervisor. The reality is, drug users often have a support system of enablers and excuse-makers who protect them and make it difficult to get them to admit there is a problem. But ultimately, you have to realize that their drug use is endangering themselves and others, and you may end up being the one hurt by their actions. It takes guts, but the end result will be a safer and more productive workplace — assuming that you’re willing to risk your own employment.
Can a business be held responsible if an employee has an injury at work while under the influence of drugs? Yes. If employers know about drug abuse and do nothing to stop it, they can be held liable for accidents or deaths caused by drug users’ actions. The best prevention for this type of liability is to implement regular drug testing and a drug-free workplace policy.
If a business does not have a drug abuse protocol in place, how can employees go about implementing one? I’m not sure employees themselves can do anything, so it’s important for companies to have drug testing protocols in place. In addition, they should have written policies on drug use that are consistently applied, and on which employees and managers are trained. Also, a solid Employee Assistance Program (EAP) should be in place.
Should you contact your loved one’s supervisor if he or she is abusing drugs at their workplace? Think about what you’ve already tried. The best person to contact would be either HR or his or her EAP. It’s important to realize that a drug user is putting everyone at risk.
What is the best system for dealing with addiction in the workplace that you’ve seen? The best systems are those in which Union Representatives and Management work together to save the employee’s life, rather than the employee’s job. Policies, actions and protocols that are in alignment with a strong EAP system supporting an employee’s recovery are the systems that work best. It’s also key for the employee to have an aftercare plan that is supported by both his or her Union, and employer.
A Case Study for an Effective EAP
Steve Miranda is a retired Sergeant with the Department of Corrections from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections where he spent 22 years of his life pioneering new programs and saving lives as the Director of their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). That program services 5,200 employees, family members and retirees. As a loyal member of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union (MCOFU), Steve understands the needs of people who are affected by addiction.
Let me start by saying that I love my line of work, but if I hadn’t lost my own brother to addiction, I’m not positive that I would have been this passionate about not only helping addicts, but also helping their families. I currently work for Treatment Solutions, who in my opinion has the absolute best approach to working with addiction in the workplace and addiction period. I feel confident saying this because I’ve worked in this field for many years and seen firsthand how to lead addicts along a better path and unfortunately, I’ve also seen companies lead addicts right out the door without even a chance. Treatment Solutions fights for every individual to get well, which is why I wanted to become part of their team.
Now, I wouldn’t talk the talk if I personally hadn’t walked the walk. For the past 22 years I was posted up at the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, where I was fortunate enough to be the Director of their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). While in that position, my team serviced over 5,200 employees, family members and retirees so I learned a thing or two about addiction along the way. In fact, I dealt head-on with virtually every setback scenario you could imagine like drugs, alcohol, financial, post trauma, marital, and so on.
I am proud to say that our team was very successful at what we did and the simple reason our EAP resources were so effective was because we made it as simple as possible for the employee and their families. We did our best to be a one-stop shop, which in essence meant that when you came to us with a situation, we weren’t going to send you out the door with a bunch of homework, we were going to assess your particular situation and find a solution for you and your family. This obviously made the situation a great deal more bearable for the individual and their family, but also, the employer saved time, stress and money. An EAP is generally a peer-elected post for just that reason, you need to be a conduit between the problem and the solution for both the employer and employee. It is a fine line but one that must be done with pride and respect.
It was during this time when I had the good fortune to work with Treatment Solutions and see that their organization had the same goal as my EAP team, just on a much grander scale. Treatment Solutions is the ultimate one stop shop and has saved countless lives as a result. One of the most difficult situations for an EAP to face is working with Public Safety Officers struggling with addiction. These officers have a career built on public perception and are far less likely to ask for help than your average employee. Treatment Solutions is comprised of former officials and Public Safety Officers who have been humbled by personal hurdles in the past and are now in a position to apply their unique wisdom and experience to people in need of help. When I saw how members of the Treatment Solutions team were able to take the one stop shop notion to a level I never imagined and apply multiple services beyond drug and alcohol treatment, but stress, counseling, family therapy, and mental health to name a few, I knew I wanted to be part of their team.
The Treatment Solutions team is built with the finest union and business leadership from the workforce and a network of the absolute best resources available in the addiction and recovery industry. It only takes one call and not only will you have a solution, but also you’ll have the best possible solution for your specific need and equally important, the needs of your family. This is the finest team I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of and while I personally lost a family member to the disease of addiction, along with Treatment Solutions, I have been able to keep countless families alive and together.