Drug Abuse in the Workplace

According to a national drug abuse watchdog group[1], substance abuse is a major problem: an estimated 22.6 million Americans, almost 9% of the populations, used an illicit drug or abused psychotherapeutic medication in 2010. Additionally, this number has increased by 8.3% since 2002, mainly due to the use of marijuana. Unless an employee works in a government agency or works at a business that interacts with the federal government, a company is not lawfully required to be drug free. However, with such alarming statistics, it is no wonder employees desire an environment that not only benefits the company, but employees as well.

For an estimated forty hours a week or more, individuals coexist with their coworkers, share a communal workspace, but rarely fully learn about one another’s personal experiences. Oftentimes, this leaves employees befuddled when a coworker begins to act strange, or they witness visible signs of drug abuse. Thus, it is important for employers and employees to take Go4CEU.com’s course on substance abuse in the workplace to assist in creating a drug-free workspace.

This program covers a multitude of topics regarding drug abuse in the workplace, and highlights the following pertinent issues:

  • how to raise awareness about drug and alcohol abuse
  • explaining why a drug free environment matters
  • teaching workers what to do if they think a coworker is abusing drugs or alcohol
  • establishing a method for maintaining a drug-free workplace in order to support employees

Individuals deal with many stresses in their lives, and sometimes, they choose to handle these difficulties in unhealthy ways. A lifestyle website found that reasons people start using drugs include[2]:

  • curiosity
  • recreation and/or a euphoric feeling
  • “taking the edge off”
  • the illusion of increased self-confidence
  • an energy boost
  • wanting to fit in socially

We all have a day when we may have not gotten enough sleep, feel unwell, aren’t as alert, and don’t bring the best of our potential to the job, but when these signs are habitual, they indicate a more serious problem. There are many indicators that may reveal a coworker is abusing alcohol or drugs. The different warning signs may vary from physical to behavioral signals. A drug addiction site reports that signs of substance abuse may include the following[3]:

  • sudden change in behavior
  • mood swings
  • withdrawal from family members
  • carelessness about personal grooming
  • loss of interest in hobbies, sports, and other favorite activities
  • big changes in sleeping patterns
  • red or glassy eyes
  • “sniffly” or runny nose

Taking a continuing education course will prepare and teach employers and employees how to deal with such complex situations. It is important to remember to never aggressively confront a coworker or put your own job on the line because of a desire to save or help someone else. An individual who is abusing drugs can only be helped if they want to make a change in their own behavioral habits and alter their life choices. However, if you do want to say something before talking to management, a continuing education course will help prepare you with ways to tactfully handle such delicate situations, and to know when to speak to management or an employer.

Employees who abuse drugs, whether in their personal life or while on the job, are often not as dependable due to the following reasons[4]:

  • likely to alternate jobs rapidly
  • have an inconsistent work ethic
  • unreliable due to too many absences
  • might be a danger and more susceptible to workplace accidents

This behavior not only puts the drug abuser in danger, but others as well. Employees do not always work in an isolated work area. When working with others, coworkers can be harmed due to one’s negligent actions. Thus, no one benefits from such behavior. The individual can be harmed and so can those around him or her.

When companies start requiring their employees to test for drugs, they should handle the results with sensitivity and confidentiality. While employers do have the legal authority to fire anyone who tests positive for drugs, or dismiss a potential hire’s application, they are encouraged to provide options for employees. For instance, they can provide an alternative to termination and give them the option of enrolling in a substance abuse rehabilitation program if they want to remain employed with the company.

It is an unfortunate reality, but drugs are a rampant part of our society. Addiction is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed, not just overlooked or eliminated. Requiring employees to take a continuing education course on the subject is a step in the right direction. This step illustrates a desire to create or maintain a drug-free work environment with the best intentions in mind for all those within the company.


[1] http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends

Author/site owner – National Institute on Drug Abuse

Article title – DrugFacts: Nationwide Trends

Date accessed – 9/6/13

[2] http://www.livestrong.com/article/110594-reasons-people-abuse-drugs/

Author/site owner – Livestrong.com/Livestrong Foundation

Article title – What are the reasons people abuse drugs?

Date accessed – 9/6/13

[3] http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/signs-symptoms-of-drug-abuse.html

Author/site owner – Narconon International

Article title – Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use

Date accessed – 9/6/13

[4] http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/02/03/heroin-use-at-work-higher-than-we-thought/

Author/site owner – CNN Money

Article title – Drug use at work: Higher than we thought

Date accessed – 9/6/13


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