Substance abuse refers to the use of legal and illegal chemical or psychoactive substances in a manner or quantity other than directed by medical experts. Abuse occurs when the user starts consuming such substances for its psychoactive or mood-altering characteristics instead of its medical or health benefits. Your employees can get addicted to and start abusing a wide range of substances including alcohol, cannabis, depressants, hallucinogens, inhalants, nicotine, opiates, or stimulants.
Health implications of substance abuse
Your employee can suffer from numerous health problems ranging from impaired judgement and slowed reflexes due to alcohol addiction to hallucination, psychosis, depression, and even death due to addiction to substances like sleeping medicines, cocaine, or heroin. In the long run, substance abuse can result in numerous diseases, ailments, and health problems that otherwise might not have occurred.
Implications for your organisation
A firm that employs human assets habituated to substance abuse will, sooner or later, suffer from numerous issues and problems. Office productivity will suffer, as addicted employees become less productive workers. Issues like mood swings, depression, impaired motor function, and other behavioural changes may also affect the overall work environment in your organisation. Of course, sustained abuse will lead to health problems leading to frequent absenteeism, which may affect distribution of work in the organisation.
Having such employees on your team may result in illegal activities related to the acquisition or sale of drugs taking place in the office. Furthermore, your employees may resort to litigation and compensation claims due to the mental stress caused by a fellow employee who is abusing substances.
Tackling substance abuse in the workplace
The first and most important step is to formulate a clear and explicit policy prohibiting substance abuse by employees. This policy will act as the basis for all disciplinary action against such employees. Proper implementation of a strict policy will serve as an ideal deterrent.
Secondly, you should conduct frequent tests to ensure all employees are in compliance with the established policy. Conducting an oral fluid lab test at regular intervals should discourage employees who might otherwise experiment with drugs or other addictive substances.
Finally, focus on increasing awareness about the potential risks and negative consequences of substance abuse. Instead of merely trying to scare your employees into avoiding substance abuse, help them understand how such a habit can ruin their lives.
A time bomb waiting to explode
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that more than 8 million individuals aged above 12 years were using marijuana on a daily basis. Those who smoked cigarettes were nine times more likely to experiment with illicit drugs. The survey also indicated that around three out of every four persons indulging in binge or heavy drinking had full-time jobs, which means that the bulk of the workforce is at risk of addiction to not just drugs but to alcohol as well.
These statistics clearly indicate that your firm cannot afford to ignore the issue of substance abuse. Waiting for the more obvious consequences of abuse to become apparent may make it impossible to solve the problem. Instead, a proactive approach combining the threat of disciplinary action with preventive awareness is the ideal strategy for your firm.