Research suggests that around 3 million employees use illegal drugs while on the job, and that approximately 2 million workers do the same with alcohol. Substance abuse is bad enough when it occurs on one’s free time. When an addiction begins taking over the workday, however, the consequences—for the individual and for society—become even more apparent.
Signs Of Drug Abuse In The Workplace
Due to the public nature of workplace life, some of the clearest outward signs of addiction are those that manifest at work. It may be as subtle as a tendency to come in late from one’s lunch breaks, or a slight decrease in motivation; or, it may be as severe as numerous missed days without explanation, or a sudden decline in personal hygiene. More and more, employers are learning to take these as signs of an addiction taking its toll.
A Threat To Customers And Coworkers
Perhaps most troubling, is some of the highest rates of drug or alcohol abuse at work can be found among professions in which a lack of attention could result in significant bodily harm. These include jobs devoted to food preparation, construction, and even transportation-related professions like auto repair and light-truck driving.
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The prospect of food poisoning or a car accident means that substance abuse in the workplace isn’t only a personal problem; it can also pose a very real threat to customers, coworkers, and other innocent bystanders.
Treatment Options Exist
Many businesses are beginning to offer treatment options and prepaid benefits packages specifically for employees struggling with addiction, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). EAPs offer a variety of services, ranging from short-term counseling to referral systems for enrolling employees in rehab centers.
This is a welcome trend—just as society at large is learning to see drug addiction as a treatable disease rather than a crime to be punished, many employers now see the value in getting help to drug-addicted employees rather than simply firing them on the spot. Indeed, the data prove them right. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor found that for every dollar an employer invests in an EAP, the result is a savings of as much as $16.
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Unfortunately, not all employers have such an enlightened view of addiction, nor does every employer offer a treatment resource like an EAP. If this is the case for you or a loved one, don’t worry: there are still treatment options out there.