Dealing With an Employee’s Drug Addiction

Drug addiction doesn’t have boundaries. It doesn’t stay on Skid Row or only affect the homeless, uneducated or unemployed. Many addicts are fully functioning members of society. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 75 percent of adults who abuse drugs are employed full-time. Whether or not you want to do it, you may be forced to deal with an employee’s drug addiction.

Studies show that when compared to non-substance abusers, employees who abuse substances are more likely to change jobs frequently, be late to or absent from work, be less productive, be involved in a workplace accident, and file a workers’ compensation claim. This adds up to billions of dollars a year in lost money for U.S. businesses. In addition to the drain on employers’ wallets, it also drains the morale and productivity of non-abusing coworkers.

If you suspect that employee is abusing drugs, there are some steps you can take. Here’s how to deal with an employee’s drug addiction and get your employee — and your company — back on track.

The Signs of Employee Drug Addiction

Recognizing an employee’s substance abuse problem isn’t always as easy as watching him stumble to his desk, slur his speech or talk about his party lifestyle. Some addicts are very good at hiding their substance abuse problems. There are some signs, however, that could be red flags of addiction. Some of these signs of employee addiction are:

* Frequent tardiness

* Unexplained or unauthorized absences from work

* Extended breaks or lunches

* Avoidance of supervisory contact, especially after breaks or lunch

* Accidents on or off the job

* Careless or sloppy work

* Poor personal hygiene or grooming

* Unusual weight loss or gain

* Attitude changes (mood swings, anxiety, belligerent, argumentative or short-tempered behavior)

* Erratic or unusual behaviors, such as extreme talkativeness, paranoia, sleepiness, tremors, sleeping on the job

* Noticeable financial problems, such as the employee borrowing money from co-workers or frequently asking for paycheck advancements

How to Deal with an Employee’s Drug Addiction

Dealing with an employee’s drug addiction isn’t easy. How do you know when you should mind your own business or step in to help? The answer depends on if the employee’s drug use has impacted his performance or relationships at work. If your employee exhibits any of the signs above, it’s probably time to step in.

The first step employers should take is to implement a drug policy and have a plan for addressing drug addiction in the workplace. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly a third of illicit drug users said they would be less likely to work for employers who conducted random drug testing. Employers with successful drug-free workplace programs report improvements in morale and productivity, and decreased absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover and theft. The standard components of drug-free workplace program should include a written policy statement, drug and alcohol testing, supervisor training, employee education and awareness, and employee assistance for providing help.

The second step to dealing with an employee’s drug addiction is to stop enabling the employee and start holding the employee accountable for his or her destructive behavior at work. This means no longer letting your employee get away with tardiness or absenteeism, shifting the employee’s work to other employees, or making excuses for the employee’s behavior.

The final step to dealing with an employee’s drug addiction is to offer your employee assistance in seeking a drug rehab. Research suggests that addiction treatment costs less for employers than replacing an employee. With the proper treatment and support, an employee can return to work more productive than ever. There are a number of drug addiction treatment options for employees, including detoxification, residential and outpatient treatment, and 12-step support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous. Call a drug rehab today and ask how you can help your employee get the help he or she so desperately needs.


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