substance abuse in the workplace

Consequences of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Have you ever gone to work high or hung over? How did it affect your performance that day? Lost productivity and poor decision-making abilities are only two of the many aspects of substance misuse in the workplace. Others include health care, disability and workers’ compensation expenses, as well as increased taxes to support the criminal justice system.

According to the National Safety Council, workers with substance use disorders miss work nearly 50 percent more often than their peers. The same study found the construction, entertainment, recreation and food service industries have twice the national average number of employees with substance use disorders.

Who Contributes to the Problem?

Interestingly, research shows social drinkers are more responsible for lost productivity than alcoholics, according to a study published in the Christian Science Monitor. This study also found business leaders are more prone to drinking during the workday. Twenty-three percent of upper managers and 11 percent of first-line supervisors reported having a drink during the workday, compared with only 8 percent of hourly employees. Those who abuse alcohol at work aren’t just harming themselves. Researchers also found 21 percent of employees blamed a co-worker’s drinking habits for affecting their productivity.

Employee substance abuse has been linked to low job autonomy, lack of job complexity, low control over work conditions and products, boredom, sexual harassment, verbal and physical aggression and disrespectful behavior. The availability and accessibility of drugs and alcohol can also influence employee substance abuse. For example, a workplace with a zero-tolerance policy can make a significant difference in whether employees try to use drugs or alcohol at work.

On-the-Job Drug Problems

Contrary to media depictions, most people with a substance misuse disorder can continue to hold down a regular job. These so-called “high-functioning” addicts can reach levels of professional success, despite their addiction. However, high-functioning is not the same as healthy.

Most addiction sufferers hide their illness from employers and co-workers, but the problem often results in specific behavioral signs. Someone who is working under the influence of drugs or alcohol may make impulsive, reckless decisions or say inappropriate things. They may show up to work late or miss meetings for no apparent reason. Other indicators someone is abusing drugs in the workplace may include:

  • Financial problems
  • A decline in personal appearance or hygiene
  • Complaints of failing relationships at home
  • Taking time off for unspecified illnesses or family problems

When It’s Time to Get Help

Some employers’ health insurance plans provide complimentary help hotlines for people struggling with substance misuse and co-occurring disorders. Others will guide you in  finding a qualified treatment program that helps you regain control of your life and your health. Whatever method you choose to get sober, doing so sooner rather than later can make all the difference as you work to heal.

The catalyst for sobriety is often a professionally managed intervention. When you have reached a tipping point in your life and need help to see how far you have allowed your disease to take over, an intervention can help you see the light. Contact our experienced team today to learn more about planning an intervention.