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Creating a Drug Free Workplace

Companies that have substance use problems not only create unsafe workplaces, but also unhealthy and inefficient ones. Drug and alcohol use in the workplace costs companies billions of dollars every year, often through accidents. Employees who use drugs or alcohol are more likely to switch jobs frequently, miss work, be less productive, and get into accidents.



If you think substance use doesn’t exist at your workplace, you’re mistaken. More than three-fourths of people with an alcohol or drug use disorder are employed, so it is highly likely that someone at your work struggles with addiction. Small companies with less than twenty-five employees are twice as likely to have workers who use illegal drugs.


Employers are advised to look for the following signs of drug or alcohol use by employees:


  • fatigue

  • unexpected bursts of energy

  • paranoia

  • aggressive behavior

  • slow or slurred speech

  • frequent unexplained absences

  • smelling like alcohol or marijuana


Employers may have the greatest opportunity to create a drug-free workplace. Asking yourself the following questions can help.


  • What laws or regulations is a person violating if they use drugs or alcohol in the workplace?

  • Can you identify any current problems in the workplace that might be connected to substance use, such as accidents, absences, or sluggish productivity?

  • How can you support healthy lifestyle choices among employees who do not currently abuse substances?

  • Which of your employees are responsible for finances or documents that must be kept confidential?

  • Which of your employees handle heavy machinery or dangerous chemicals? What other safety concerns do you have?


Active Steps for a Drug Free Office


After identifying the risks and areas for growth, develop a plan to reduce the risks of drugs and alcohol in your workplace. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following steps.


Create a Written Policy – Workplace guidelines should support the company's drug-free workplace policy by outlining laws, regulations, and consequences for violating these laws; other policies about substance use in the workplace; and information about community resources for substance use.


Regular Training – It is important for training to address both the dangers of drug and alcohol use in the workplace and healthy behaviors that do not include substance use. A wellness program can increase employee productivity, connect employees with workplace resources, and strengthen employee relationships.


Consider Drug Testing – Drug testing is a way to identify employees who abuse their rights and privileges as employees, and it can also help identify what services they need to recover from drug addiction. When you implement a drug-testing policy, you must decide who will be tested, which drugs will be tested for, how the tests will be administered, and how you will treat employees who test positive.


Use an Employee Assistance Program – Employee assistance programs offer psychoeducation, counseling, and other wellness resources to employees. Enrolling with an EAP provides an opportunity for employees to prevent and address substance issues, as prevention strategies are more cost-effective and demonstrate to employees that an organization prioritizes their physical and mental health.


When creating a substance use policy, consider how supervisors currently handle the problem at your organization. Talk to other organizations you respect and ask them what local resources they recommend for addressing substance use. Also, don’t be afraid to get feedback from your own employees—consider holding a meeting or taking anonymous feedback about the culture of your organization.


If you suspect that an employee is struggling with drugs or alcohol, do not accuse them. Instead, talk to them about their work performance, and how they behave with colleagues. Treat all employees equally and fairly. Follow the policies you have set in place. It might take a bit of work, but a drug free workplace is worth the effort. Your organization will experience higher morale and productivity, fewer unexpected costs, and less employee turnover. Employees will feel healthier and happier, and everyone will benefit. What steps can you take to create a drug free workplace today?




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