5 Ways to Address Drug and Substance Abuse in the Workplace

workplace drug abuseDrug abuse at the workplace is a common problem that not only hurts productivity but also ruins both the personal and professional lives of employees. According to the CBHSQ reports, about 8.7% of drug users in the US are full-time workers, with alcohol being the most abused drug. Ignoring members of staff who struggle with substance addiction only makes the problem worse and puts the company at risk of losses.

The first step to dealing with drug problems in the workplace is acknowledging its presence. Here are a few tips on how human resource professionals can address substance abuse in the workplace and enhance productivity as well as the well-being of employees.

1. Note Signs and Document Instances of Substance Abuse at Work

To ascertain the presence and extent of the problem, observe any signs of substance abuse from the employees. These may include changes in behavior, strained relationships with colleagues, absenteeism, and a drop-in performance and productivity. Documenting your observations and instances of drug abuse will serve as the basis of your intervention. You need to have evidence when you decide to take appropriate action – such as taking disciplinary action or encouraging the affected employee to seek help.

2. Implement Workplace Policies

While this is a standard practice in most workplaces, introducing policies at the workplace to deal with drug abuse can greatly improve your staff’s productivity and reduce turnover. The policies should clearly communicate the intolerance of drug abuse during work hours, what behaviors are unacceptable and the consequences. Drug testing programs will also go a long way in deterring members of staff from abusing drugs at work.

3. Treatment and Support Programs

Although it may cost the business financially, coming up with treatment and support programs is one way of effectively remedying drug problems at work. Classes and forums about drug abuse will serve to initiate a conversation about the problem and also encourage ideas on possible solutions.

Dependency breeds fear of losing the job when one decides to seek help. As such, you need to provide assurance and support for employees to seek treatment, and that the staff won’t lose their jobs when they enroll for rehabilitation. Direct them to professionals for treatment, and help create a supportive environment for those determined to kick their habits.

4. Avoid Enabling

Giving employees opportunities that support drug abuse at work only serves to worsen the problem. Whatever way you decide to handle the matter, avoid the following enabling practices.

  • Lending them money
  • Assigning the duties of the affected employee to their colleagues
  • Covering up for the employee

By doing the above, you are only showing the affected employees that they can get away with their behavior. This may not only fuel the habit but also hurt the company’s bottom line.

5. Maintain Professionalism

Substance abuse and dependency is a highly sensitive and personal matter. Therefore, if it is not handled well, the intervention may do more harm than good to the affected. When confronting employees with drug problems at work, do it in the most civil and professional manner basing your perspective on the effect it has on the career aspect of their lives. It is not recommended to delve into their personal lives, so keep it strictly professional. On the same note, you shouldn’t try to counsel them without a professional.

While you cannot change employees who indulge in substance abuse at work, you can control how you treat them. The above tips should be helpful in dealing with the drug menace in the workplace and help safeguard productivity.


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