WHY WORRY ABOUT DRUGS AND ALCOHOL IN THE WORKPLACE?
Because the worker next to you may be drunk, high, or hungover.
More than 70 percent of substance abusers hold jobs; one worker in four, ages 18 to 34, used drugs in the past year; and one worker in three knows of drug sales in the workplace.
Americans consume 60 percent of the worlds production of illegal drugs: 23 million use marijuana at least four times a week; 18 million abuse alcohol; 6 million regularly use cocaine; and 2 million use heroin.
In the workplace, the problems of these substance abusers become your problems. They increase risk of accident, lower productivity, raise insurance costs, and reduce profits. They can cost you your job; they can cost you your life.
What is Substance Abuse?
Men and women dependent on heroin, cocaine, or crackwho must have these potent drugs to get through the dayare clearly substance abusers. And drug dependency takes more than one form. You need not be physically addicted (and suffer painful bodily symptoms of withdrawal when denied your drug of choice) to be drug dependent. Psychological dependency is equally responsible for compulsive drug use.
But substance abuse covers a range of behavior that goes far beyond dependency. Abuse may involve regular marijuana use, heavy drinking, weekend binges, casual consumption of tranquilizers, or misuse of other prescription drugs. It includes any use of drugs or alcohol that threatens physical or mental health, inhibits responsible personal relationships, or diminishes the ability to meet family, social, or vocational obligations.
Does it Threaten Jobs?
Substance abusers dont have to indulge on the job to have a negative impact on the work- place. Compared to their non- abusing coworkers, they are:
Operating machinery under the influence of alcohol or drugs is clearly high-risk. But danger also increases when reflexes or judgment are compromised to any degree by drugs or alcohol. And substance abusers are not only five times more likely than other workers to cause injuries, they are also responsible for 40 percent of all industrial fatalities.
Working at minimal capacity, these workers increase the workloads of others, lower productivity, compromise product quality, and can tarnish a companys image. Their absences and health care demands raise costs. They reduce competitiveness and profitability, weakening the companies that employ them and threatening everyones job security.
What are the Signs of Abuse?
Substance abusers in the workplace can be difficult to identify. But there are some clues that signal possible drug and alcohol problems.
Heres what to look for:
Marijuana users may have bloodshot or glassy eyes and a persistent cough.
Cocaine users display increased energy and enthusiasm early in their drug involvement. Later they may be subject to extreme mood swings and can become paranoid or delusional.
Alcohol abusers find it hard to conceal morning-after hangovers. Their productivity declines, and they may show signs of physical deterioration.
How Can it Be Prevented?
A comprehensive drug-free workplace program may be the best means of preventing, detecting, and dealing with substance abusers.
Such a program generally includes the following elements:
Employee Assistance Programs that provide counseling for employees and their family members are structured to help workers with a wide range of problems. Substance abuse is a primary concern.
Working with substance abusers, EAP professionals seek to provide whatever assistance makes it possible for employees to remain on or return to the job. Many companies offer counseling and treatment services or refer employees to services in the community. It is sometimes necessary for workers to take time off for treatment. In these cases, successful completion of a rehabilitation program generally brings the former substance abusers back to the workforce.
What Can You Do?
Substance abusers in the workplace create a problem that affects you and should concern you. There are a number of ways in which you can do something about it.
Dont be an "enabler."
When you cover up for substance abusers, lend them money, or help conceal poor work performance, you are protecting them from the consequences of their behavior. You are making it possible for them to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. You may think youre being a friend, but you are doing them no favor.
Dont "look the other way."
If you suspect drugs are being used or being sold, you should pass the word to a supervisor or to security or human resources personnel. Such contacts are confidential and, in many organizations, this information can be conveyed anonymously.
Dont intervene on your own.
Drug abuse and drug dealing are serious problems that should be handled by qualified professionals.
Dont worry about jeopardizing a substance abusers job.
Employees are often reluctant to let management know when they suspect drug activity, worried that any coworkers they identify will be penalized or even lose their jobs. The reality is that you place a co-worker in far greater jeopardy when you dont report your concern and, in that way, make continued drug use possible.
Bear in mind that the threat of being fired often provides a potent deterrent to substance abuse and will prompt many drug- and alcohol-troubled workers to accept help when they had previously ignored the pleas of family and friends. Faced with the possibility of losing their jobs, workers who had refused to recognize or acknowledge their substance abuse are often motivated to enter treatment andwhat may be even more importantremain in treatment long enough to make fundamental changes in attitudes and behavior.
Copyright © 1999 Phoenix House
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