How can you deal with employees who abuse alcohol and drugs in the workplace?

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Answered by: Sheila, An Expert in the Alcohol and Drugs Category
The use of alcohol and drugs in the workplace can have a devastating effect on a company. Substance use in a work environment puts everybody and other resources at risk. Nonetheless, addicts can hide behind a false sober persona, and employers need to be extra vigilant to preempt possible use of illicit substances. It is important to monitor work performances for signs of personal difficulties which require interventions. To drive the message home, all employees should sign an ethical code of conduct, upon been contracted to work for the business. In vulnerable environments, bold signs can be placed in strategic points, to further emphasize on abstinence in the workplace. All actions that are contrary to the code of conduct must have consequences, and these must also be considerate of the severity of the mistake.

Addressing Illicit Substance Problems at the Workplace

     Addiction is an illness, and the victims of substance abuse ought to be treated with dignity, for they can be equally productive. The desirable approach in substance-related problems is adopting a non-discrimination policy for employees with a history of addictions, based on existing laws and workplace regulations. You will have to identify situations and factors that may precipitate the use of restricted substances, and thereafter develop programs to provide support for vulnerable employees – exercise yards, recreational activities and workshops on abstinence. Most organizations today offer their employees counseling services: either in-house or out-sourced. But for a small business, managers must become certified counselors, as this enables them to act with composure and empathy, in moments of crisis.

     Lead through an example: Both management and workers have to respect the statutes of the code of conduct, prohibition and restrictions should cut across all levels of operations. Confidentiality on issues of addiction builds the confidence of victims, and the latter have to be informed on exceptions – legal, ethical or professional.

     Testing of bodily samples for traces of substance use is often viewed as an extreme measure, but others may see it as a deterrent. Nonetheless, you have to establish the appropriate and ethical approach that is relevant to your specific situation. Mitigating initiatives ensure retention of competent employees with addiction problems and these include: education, training, and improving the work environment.

Health Promotion Programs

     These programs can be developed to motivate and change employee behavior on issues of substance abuse. Encouraging and granting incentives to employees willing to be involved in health oriented practices can promote abstinence. Wellness programs are largely incompatible with any form of addiction, and such programs contribute to the preservation of a conducive working environment.

Peer Intervention

     For an individual with a subdued substance problem, the immediate coworkers may be the first to note deteriorating performance, and due to loyalty and trust, reporting to management is seen as a betrayal. Peer-to-peer support can be effective, as it guarantees confidentiality and fear of victimization. However, this initiative works well with the assistance of professional bodies that have an insight on problems affecting members in a specific industry. The goal of workplace interventions for alcohol and drugs abuse is to prevent loss of jobs and any resultant losses due to poor performances.

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