Keeping Drugs out of the Workplace
According to drugabuse.com 60 percent of the world's illegal drugs are consumed by American drug users. Two million use heroin, six million use cocaine and 18 million suffer from alcohol abuse. Also, an estimated 23 million people use marijuana at least four times weekly according to the American Council for Drug Education.
Of all drug users, 74.8 percent are employed and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 12.9 million people actively use drugs in the workplace. In addition to physical impairment, drug use disrupts decision making abilities creating the possibility of danger for others. Between 10 and 20 percent of Americans who die at work test positive for alcohol or drug abuse. Mining and construction have the highest rates of drug use by their employees.
Employers are affected by drug using employees due to their poor work performance, unreliability, frequent job changes, poor productivity and frequent filing for worker's compensation benefits. Prevention of drug use in the workplace can be accomplished by pre-employment drug testing, random drug testing during employment and applied consequences for positive drug tests.
Many larger businesses have such programs in place but many smaller businesses cannot afford to do so. Drug users know this and will deliberately apply for work where testing is not carried out. Companies which require testing and provide educational programs reap benefits such as:
Employee assistance programs can help employees who develop a drug problem and can provide counseling to help with substance abuse issues. The National Household Survey on drug Abuse reports that only 53 percent of employees were aware of any assistance offered by their workplace.
Supervisory staff should educate other staff members about drug usage rules and expectations as well as be informed about drug testing procedures and employee assistance. Drug awareness day is a good time to distribute written material about substance abuse in the workplace and specific company rules. International overdose day is on August 31 each year reminding people of the consequences of using illegal drugs.
Some signs of drug abuse can be confused with other illnesses but if a colleague has frequent accidents, exhibits erratic behavior, has slurred speech or dilated pupils, drug abuse may be the cause. Not showing up for work is another red flag; absenteeism is another sign of drug use. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that drug users have a 66 percent higher absentee rate than other workers who do not use drugs.
If a person suspects that a colleague is using drugs in the workplace they should inform a supervisor such as a manager or member of the human resources team. The person who is using drugs can cause a serious accident and endanger other employees. Reporting suspicions may also help get the addicted person to needed treatment. Drug rehab centers can change their lives.
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