Business of Well-being

New Data Reveals Nearly A Quarter of American Workers Have Used Alcohol or Drugs on the Job

Blake Cohen
National Outreach Manager
Recovery Unplugged

The next time you consume any service, whether it’s filing your taxes, getting your brakes done or having your lunch maid, you may want to take a closer look at the employee doing it. While you’re at it, you may want to gather four of your colleagues or employees and assess one of them a little more closely for on-the-job substance abuse. Sound extreme? The Numbers don’t lie. Recent data reported by USA Today reveals that 23 percent of all American workers have drunk or used drugs on the job at least once in their lives. This behavior runs the gamut of substance use behaviors, from marijuana use to excessive drinking to recreational opioid use.

Workplace Substance Abuse Is Everywhere

While the subject of the USA Today article is a veteran employee of the restaurant industry, a landscape in which substance abuse and addiction thrive, the piece reveals the ubiquity of on-the-job substance use in practically every American industry. Roughly six in ten say they have used alcohol at work, outside of office parties or functions, while nearly 23 percent say they’ve smoked pot on the job. Over four percent of marijuana respondents say they use the drug every day and nearly five percent say they use the drug weekly. Alcohol was, the most commonly abused workplace substance use. Approximately 64 percent of female respondents and nearly 70 percent of male respondents saying they’ve drunk at work.

Other Key Findings of Study

The data discussed in the piece also revealed some illuminating daily and weekly drug and alcohol consumption patterns among the American workforce. While less than one percent of respondents said they were drunk at work on a daily basis, over two percent responded that they’re drunk at work at least once a week. In what can be accurately characterized as a considerably more startling revelation, over three percent of respondents said they were high at work every day and nearly 3.5 percent admitted to being high on the job on a weekly basis. One in ten respondents says that they have purchased or taken a substance to help them beat a random drug test at some point. Of those people, men were almost twice as likely as women to have purchased or taken something to beat a drug test.

Substance Abuse Doesn’t Clock Out

The reality of addiction is that it doesn’t take time off during work hours; it is a 24-7 reality; a chronic medical condition that consumes every aspect of a person’s life, including their careers, their professional stability, and their relationships and credibility with colleagues and supervisors. If drug and alcohol use were something that substance use disorder sufferers could simply turn on or off, it’s doubtful that they would choose to let it so thoroughly disrupt their personal and professional lives. Nevertheless, prolonged and untreated drug and alcohol abuse negatively impact every aspect of sufferers’ work lives, as well as those of their colleagues.

Negative Impact of Workplace Drug and Alcohol Abuse

In addition the obvious and immediate safety and occupational health concerns associated with working with someone who comes to work high, including falls, impact injuries, machinery failures, etc., there are also considerable long-term organizational health ramifications to consider. Imagine the employee who has to consistently work late or pick up slack on a project because a key member of the team has become ineffective due to substance use; the entry-level subordinate who can see that their immediate supervisor has an alcohol or drug issue that’s affecting employee morale, but is too nervous to say anything; the missed deadlines; the discouraged clients; and everything other possible outcome associated with unaddressed with this issue. These issues very quickly get compounded and it’s only a matter of time before you see this impact on your financial bottom line.

Tread Lightly but Firmly: Addressing Substance Use in the Workplace

While it’s clear that you can’t have drug and alcohol abuse infecting your company’s ranks, the way you choose to handle it, and the mechanisms you have in place to prevent it, will speak volumes about your company culture, organizational readiness and your commitment to your employees. This can start, believe it or not before you even make your first hire. Having a clear and concise workplace substance use policy, in which the penalties and corrective resources for this behavior are clearly outlined will help you take swift and decisive action when a problem is identified. This guideline will help you deploy appropriate accountability measures, should the need ever arise.

Compassion Combined with Swift Action

When it’s discovered that one of your employees is bringing drug or alcohol use into the workplace, it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Everyone deserves a second chance and helping to guide your employee toward treatment through pre-established assistance and linkage programs represent that you’re committed to the health and quality of life of your staff, and the continued longevity of your organization. Whether they’re struggling with a decades-long history of alcohol use disorder or have started to develop an opioid dependency that’s impacting their professional performance, there are more avenues than ever for you to act on your employees’ behalf and be an advocate for their recovery.

Let Recovery Unplugged Help Your Employees

At the end of the day, try and remember that you hired your employee for a reason. By helping them get the treatment they need for substance use disorder, you’re giving them the opportunity to once again become the vibrant, capable and committed part of your team that they were prior to their substance abuse. Recovery Unplugged is committed to helping your organization guide employees affected by drug and alcohol use disorder toward treatment, a better tomorrow and a full return to your ranks. Contact us today to arrange an education session and to learn more about what we can do for your company. Don’t let drug or alcohol addiction ruin your company.

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