Last updated: September 25, 2023
During college, students engage in many social and academic opportunities while pursuing their degree. Unfortunately, many college students also leave school with more than just their diploma.
Due to the increased accessibility of drugs and alcohol on college campuses, more students are also graduating with an addiction that will have a significant impact upon their professional lives. As substance abuse among college students who are entering the workforce continues to rise, so does the need for employers to be aware of the types of drug problems that they may encounter. Therefore, the following guide is offered to help employers to recognize the signs of a drug problem, know how to perform drug testing for common drugs and what to do when an employee has a drug problem.
Commonly Abused Substances
Throughout college, partying is a socially accepted experience that students enjoy. Although many students are minors, alcohol is often a major source of entertainment at college parties. Fraternities, sororities and other clubs often encourage heavy drinking through games, peer pressure and other forms of influence. Unfortunately, many people continue to abuse alcohol once they begin working. Next to alcohol, marijuana is another commonly abused substance that users tout for its calming effects. Many college students have developed such a strong reliance on marijuana that they may continue to use if before and during their work day. College students also leave school with addictions to pain pills, weight-loss drugs and other energy enhancing drugs that were once prescribed but are no longer needed. Additionally, employers should be on the lookout for harder drugs such as cocaine, heroin and speed.
Recognizing the Signs of Substance Abuse
While substance abusers are adept at hiding their addiction, they will often display signs of their problem in their everyday behavior and job performance. For example, they may display chronic tardiness to important meetings or fail to meet deadlines. They may also experience rapid changes in their mood or behavior. This can lead to problems getting along with coworkers or clients. Physical signs of substance abuse include red eyes, sleepiness and an increase in accidents. Many times, drugs may also make a person appear to be overly energetic or efficient. However, these periods of high activity will also be followed by a loss of productivity. Employees who abuse drugs or alcohol may also attempt to lie or cover up their behavior by making excuses for their frequent absences or unaccomplished tasks that do not always make sense when they are questioned further.
Testing for Drugs and Alcohol
Because drug abuse is becoming more common as college students enter the workforce, it is important to include regular drug testing in the employment process in order to identify and handle potential substance abusers. For this reason, many employers find that pre-employment drug screening can help them to avoid hiring a substance abuser in the first place. By avoiding hiring people who use drugs, a business can also prevent other employees from being exposed to the harmful effects of abused substances. Additionally, simple urine tests can be used randomly to continue to encourage every employee to remain drug-free. Finally, drug tests should be performed any time that someone is injured on the job. This can help to prevent employers from being held responsible for an accident or injury that would not have happened if their employee had been sober. Then, it is also important to include a plan for handling anyone who tests positive for controlled substances so that they can be dealt with promptly.
Handling Substance Abuse Issues
Prevention is key when developing a plan for handling substance abuse issues in the workplace. One of the best ways that this can be done is by including drug prevention strategies in training sessions at every level. These strategies can include drug awareness, coping strategies and information about how to get help for someone with a substance abuse problem. Additionally, a company’s employment policy should explain to employees exactly how a positive drug test will be handled. In most companies, this will include a referral to a drug treatment program or even possible termination.
As college students enter the workforce, it is important to be aware of the types of substances that are commonly abused among this group. Alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs are just a few of the most likely drugs to be abused, and each can be identified through simple tests and screenings throughout the employment process. By taking an involved approach to recognizing substance abuse issues, employers and employees can all benefit from having a drug-free work environment that will be safe and productive for everyone.