Last updated: October 25, 2021
More than 70 percent of all people treated for drugs have full-time jobs. Drug abuse is a widespread problem, and its use extends beyond simple recreational use at home. Drug use can affect not only the user but their immediate families, friends and employers. There are a myriad of consequences to both the drug user and the employer that can cause a ripple of damages.
What Drug Use Means to Employers
According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD), drug abuse costs employers $18 billion annually. Drug abuse has been linked to absenteeism, loss of productivity and on the job injuries. Drug abuse doesn’t just affect the user. It can cause a drop in employee morale even among those who are not using drugs. NCADD estimates that more than 70 percent of drug users have jobs, which means that there is a high likelihood that most businesses employ a regular drug user.
Indicators that an employee may be abusing drugs include:
- Frequent absences
- Lack of focus or poor concentration
- Risk taking behaviors
- Unexplained disappearances from worksite
- Being present at the worksite but mentally “checked out”
- Deterioration of personal hygiene and appearance
- Leaving early or taking extended breaks
- Absences that occur on or right after payday
Other behaviors may include:
- Attempting to sell drugs to other employees
- Stealing from the company
- Providing free products from the company in exchange for drugs
- Becoming injured while high on drugs
- Starting fights with other employees or customers
The behaviors listed aren’t comprehensive, but neither are they exclusive to abusing drugs while on the job. In fact, in most cases, the behaviors manifest themselves at work when the use happens on the employee’s own time.
What employers can do
There are several things that employers can do to mitigate the damage that drug-addicted employees can cause. First, instituting a drug testing program as a condition of hire will drastically reduce the chance that preexisting drug abuse will be brought into the workplace. Continuing the program with random drug testing will discourage recreational use and decrease the liability to the company.
Having an open door policy is also effective in stopping drug use on the job. Consulting the Department of Labor’s Drug-free Workplace Advisor is a great start to creating a policy that will both help employees and protect your business from legal trouble.
Instituting a drug assistance program which connects employees to community resources is another way of eliminating drugs from the workplace. Provide your staff with links to drug treatment programs and other community assistance that will help them to recover from drug addiction.
What happens at home doesn’t stay there
Drug use has a ripple effect on the user, affecting both his home and work life. If they have a job, drug abusers may soon find it hard to keep it. If they’ve worked hard to save money, that money will soon be spent. If they prize their health, they may soon suffer a number of ailments, some not even directly related to the physical harm of their drug of choice. People who suffer from drug dependency often suffer from poor credit, evictions and a host of other financial struggles. A person without sleep, without money to buy food they need for proper nutrition, and in poor physical health does not make a good employee.
Drug use also negatively affect personal relationships. Many drug users find themselves in domestic turmoil as marriages fall apart and relationships with children and extended family are strained. This tension can spill over into the user’s work life, with stress at home affecting work performance. Even the most conscientious employee will find it difficult to deal with the multiple challenges of home life and work life when suffering from drug addiction. Work relationships are likewise strained and can immediately affect productivity.
Drug use doesn’t have to result in addiction in order to be a serious problem for businesses. Decreased productivity, increased liability, and strained relationships and finances are found in workplaces whether the drug is used at work or at home. As would be the case with any problem following an employee from home, employers should make it a priority to legally spot the issue before it grows, get that employee help as soon as possible, and protect the business and other employees from feeling the effects of drug use and abuse.