Last updated: December 4, 2023
The behavior of your employees should be professional and safe at all times. Even off the clock. It’s expected for them to have a life outside of the office, but once they enter the workplace, their professionalism should show as they carry out their duties on the job.
Alcohol and drug abuse by employees may not necessarily be obvious. This makes those who are suffering with addiction outside of the workplace more likely to cause expensive issues for your company. Not only does that employee have a problem, but their problem then also affects you and your business. That’s not okay.
The issues that addiction can cause for you as a business are deep and plentiful. This includes productivity, safety, and morale, just to name a few. It also impacts your finances, and human resource workload because you’ll have to pay out to replace your employees when drug abuse prevents them from doing their job effectively.
Issues in the workplace
Employees who abuse drugs cause a lot of issues in the workplace, even while trying to conceal what is going on. Some of the main impacts that drug and alcohol abuse have on a business surround the following things:
- Deaths and accidents. This is the worst possible thing that could happen to your business. The implications would be huge and your company would be seen as careless for not noticing the changes in behavior.
- Absenteeism. Your company has spent a lot of time and money in training staff. When they don’t show up, they’re costing you money and adding stress to those who have to pick up the slack.
- Sleeping on the job. This is particularly dangerous in industries that deal with construction, chemicals and heavy machinery as part of the job.
- Affecting job performance. If someone is hungover or going through a period of withdrawal, there is no way it won’t affect their job.
- Poor decision making. In roles where a decision can affect the outcome of a project or the safety of a colleague, the danger that people get put into due to substances affecting decisions can destroy your company.
- Temptation to steal. Those under the spell of addiction often steal from wherever they can to get their next fix. This can put your company under a lot of stress and could end your business.
There are many more ways that an addict can negatively impact the workplace, including:
- Lower morale in the office among the remaining staff.
- Distraction during important tasks while trying to obtain thinking about drugs.
- Illegal activity in the workplace such as selling drugs or other substances to staff.
- Much higher staff turnover.
- Costs of training new employees to replace those who leave.
- Disciplinary measures.
The costs to a business that is dealing with a member of staff who is misusing substances go beyond the financial costs. The stress of trying to handle drugs in the workplace puts a huge strain on business safety and the safety of the additional staff in the workplace. There are so many things that contribute to people drinking and using drugs while in the workplace, and these can include things like an accepted drinking and drugs culture around work hours, being alienated at work and the availability of drink and drugs.
The opiate crisis
Currently, there is a major opiate crisis in America. This affects workplaces everywhere and most employers are just not prepared for it. Drug overdoses are a leading cause of death, and while health care providers works to find solutions to solve the problem, employers must do the same thing. Some options include:
- Support for mental health care in the workplace.
- Training managers to recognize the warning signs of opiate addiction and how to approach sufferers.
- An open door policy for anonymous help in the workplace. Reducing the stigma surrounding drug use can help those who are nervous to come forward.
How long do various types of drugs stay in your system?
Contrary to popular belief, not every drug will show up on every drug test. There are hundreds of different drugs, and there are plenty that tested for in a standard drugs test.
When drugs are ingested, the body breaks them down and then the resulting metabolites can linger in blood, saliva, urine, and hair for some time after the effects of the drugs are experienced. When a drug test is performed, traces of the drug metabolites, not the drug itself, are searched for by the laboratory.
Drinking a beer on a Friday night after work is usually out of your body come Monday morning, meaning that you’re not going to be impaired for days on end after a couple of cold ones with your friends. Drugs are a different matter, and they can stick around for a lot longer than alcohol does. Below, we’ve described a variety of commonly abused drugs, their side effects, signs of use, and how long they remain in the system of the user.
Reacting with the brain’s GABA receptors, benzodiazepine depresses, or slows down the central nervous system. Usually prescribed to control anxiety and sedate the user, benzodiazepine can also be used to stop spasms in the muscles and halt seizures. Valium and Xanax are popularly prescribed benzodiazepines.
Side effects: These are designed to relax the user, but can result in unusual sleep patterns, drowsiness and the ‘hangover’ feeling are also common.
Signs of use: Intoxication is characterized by slurred speech, drowsiness (sleeping on the job), slow reaction times, confusion and poor concentration.
How long do benzodiazepines stay in your system: Benzodiazepines stay in the system for 3-6 weeks in urine and 2-3 days in the blood.
Known as a party drug, cocaine is commonly snorted to chase a rush of elation and a surge of energy. It’s highly addictive and takes effect in the brain in seconds.
Side effects: Aside from the euphoria that is felt after snorting, swallowing, or injecting cocaine, the side effects can include abdominal pain, chills, paranoia, headache and in rare cases and cases where it is mixed with alcohol, death.
Signs of use: You can pick up on current cocaine use with symptoms like disinhibition, muscle tics and agitation, excessive enthusiasm, inability to focus.
How long does cocaine stay in your system: Cocaine stays in the system of the user for 3-4 days in urine and 1-2 days in blood.
Derived from the opium poppy, heroin is highly addictive, highly dangerous, and the statistics for heroin users are rising far too quickly. The euphoria felt occurs in a matter of seconds when injected intravenously. The body breaks it down very quickly, leading to an addict doing everything possible for the next hit.
Side effects: After injection, the user will feel a rush of euphoria, flushing of the skin, a dry mouth and a heaviness in the arms and legs. The depression in the central nervous system clouds the mind and the pupils constrict to pinpoints.
Signs of use: This generally depends on how long heroin is being used for, how often and how much of it is being injected. Immediate side effects can be itching, nausea, slowed heart rate and for long term users, collapsed veins.
How long does heroin stay in your system: Heroin is present in urine for 3-4 days and in blood for 1-2 days.
Side effects: These include euphoria, paranoia, excessive hunger, dry mouth and slower reflexes and skills.
Signs of use: You would notice excessive anxiety, agitation, irritability and insomnia.
How long does marijuana stay in your system: Marijuana stays in the urine for 7-30 days and in the blood for up to two weeks.
Also known as meth, crystal, or speed, methamphetamines affect the central nervous system and release dopamine and serotonin.
Side effects: Increased energy and mania, loss of appetite, excessive sweating, tremors and paranoia are all common side effects of methamphetamines.
Signs of use: Some of the signs of abuse include paranoia, skin changes and agitation.
How long does methamphetamine stay in your system: 3-6 days in urine and up to 72 hours in blood.
MDMA / ecstasy
This is the street name for ecstasy and acts as both a stimulant and a psychedelic. It provides a huge high, distortions in time and a skewed perception of the world. It’s highly addictive.
Side effects: Diminished inhibitions, heightened sexuality, enhanced energy, state of euphoria and increased alertness.
Side effects: Insomnia, depression, poor memory, confusion and agitation are all common signs of use.
How long does MDMA / ecstacy stay in your system: 3-4 days in urine and 1-2 days in blood.
This is a drug that is used to treat opiate addiction and is not for use as a pain medication. It has the powerful effect to slow or stop your breathing. Mixing this with alcohol or other drugs can be fatal.
Side Effects. This is a drug that can slow your breathing and you shouldn’t take this unless under supervision.
Signs of Use. Unusual behaviour, dependence or agitation when the drug is not taken on time, strained professional relationships.
How Long They Stay. Up to 3 days in urine but up to 42 hours in the blood stream.
Drug testing methods
There are three different methods that employers can use to conduct drug testing for their employees today. These include the mouth swab, hair follicle, and urine drug test. Outside of professional sports, blood drug testing is rarely used today. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, and will detect drug use for a different length of time following drug use.
Mouth swab drug test
- Common and effective, this is a handy tool for recent drug use detection and it can pick up marijuana, cocaine, opiates, crystal meth, PCP and benzos.
- The test collects and analyzes metabolites, which are the byproducts of the human body breaking down drugs.
- It is highly effective up to a few days after the drugs are taken.
Hair follicle drug test
- This is a highly effective method as a sample cannot be tampered with and is conducted in plain view.
- Approximately 100 strands of hair from the top of the head are collected in a sample as close to the scalp as possible.
- Cocaine, opiates, marijuana, ecstasy and MDMA are among some of the drugs that can be detected here.
- Hair follicle tests detect all drug use for a period of ninety days.
Urine drug test
- The most common and widely accepted method of testing and is used in businesses up and down the country.
- It helps a business to maintain a drug-free environment.
- Detection times are dependent on the drug and range from a few days to a few weeks. Marijuana is the exception to the rule, heavy smokers can test positive for a month or more.
- It’s important to know that a positive test doesn’t mean that an employee is under the influence of drugs at the time of the test.
5 panel drug test
This test typically identifies five of the most commonly taken drugs: cocaine, marijuana, meth, opiates, and PCP. A specific 5 panel test is used for DOT drug testing. Any method can be used for a 5 panel drug test.
10 panel drug test
This test usually detects the following drugs: amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, hydrocodone, marijuana, methadone, methaqualone, meth, opiates, PCP and propoxyphene. The 10 panel drug test is a much more comprehensive panel that can be conducted using urine, hair follicle, and mouth swab testing.
12 panel drug test
This test typically includes: cocaine, ecstasy, oxycodone, PCP, hydrocodone, opiates, marijuana, benzos, methadone, barbiturates, propoxyphene and amphetamines. Any technique, including mouth swab, urinalysis, and hair follicle testing can be used to perform a 12 panel drug test.
Solving the problem
Drugs in the workplace are becoming an increasing problem. Drug testing is your way to ensure that you are keeping your employees and your business safe.