Navigating Substance Abuse in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers and Employees

Millions of adults who struggle with addiction are employed. Just shy of 14 million employees have an alcohol or drug disorder. As an employer, providing assistance for employees with addiction can have a positive impact on your business, decreasing healthcare claims, increasing productivity, and encouraging retention among employees who might otherwise leave their jobs if they are forced to prioritize getting help over maintaining a career.

This is especially true for white collar organizations such as airlines, hospitals, and similar executives. In such situations, hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more goes into training and long-term upkeep of credentials or qualifications, but all of that can be lost if employers do not learn to recognize substance abuse in the workplace and offer appropriate help.

Any organization that has a federal contract of $100,000 or more must comply with federal regulations from the Drug-Free Workplace Act. This requires that employers utilize preventative measures against substance abuse in the workplace by:

  • Publishing policy statements against the use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace that list any potential consequences for violations
  • Establishing awareness programs to help employees understand the dangers of using and working

Warning Signs of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

In addition to having proper notifications and compliance information, employees and employers alike should know the warning signs of substance abuse in the workplace. Common warning signs and symptoms of addiction include the following:

  • Increased accidents at work
  • Absenteeism without notification
  • Unexplained disappearances from work
  • Not keeping appointments
  • Failure to meet deadlines
  • Significant changes in work performance between low and high productivity
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficult concentrating
  • Increased time or effort for regular tasks
  • Not fulfilling responsibilities at work
  • Deterioration in hygiene or appearance
  • Physical signs like slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or hyperactivity

Dealing with Substance Abuse in the Workplace

When employees notice the warning signs in either themselves or another employee, it’s important to report the need for help. As employers, it’s important to have processes in place for dealing with substance abuse, like regular drug tests or meetings where you ask for an explanation about certain behaviors.

For example, an employee having high absenteeism and bloodshot eyes could be the result of allergies or sickness. If there is a legitimate explanation, such as a recent health condition or family issue, employers can offer assistance in helping employees adjust. But if there are no legitimate explanations and it turns out to be related to drugs or alcohol, employers can offer help such as:

  • Time off to participate in addiction treatment without risk of termination
  • A return-to-work agreement instead of termination in exchange for an individual completing a certain rehab program
  • Giving time off in the afternoons to go to an afternoon or evening outpatient program

As an employer, it’s up to you to decide how you want to utilize preventative practices in order to ensure the safety, productivity, and health of all your employees, and you must also decide what steps you want to take in offering treatment assistance for those in need.

Getting Help for Substance Abuse in the Workplace with Providence Treatment

Providence Treatment is one of the best drug rehab centers on the East Coast. We offer innovative addiction treatment for executives, airline pilots, and physicians, among other professionals.

We have centers in Philadelphia, Boston, and Honolulu offering partial hospitalization programs at 20 hours per week, intensive outpatient programs at 9 hours per week, and outpatient and aftercare programs for continuing support. 

We are vetted by the FAA to provide pilot aftercare groups. We also work with several other professionals, including:

  • Nurses
  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Dentists
  • Veterinarians

Using evidence-based group therapy, we offer treatment for those with unique schedules and high-stress jobs who have been asked to undergo treatment by their employers. Once treatment is complete and the aftercare program shows employees are ready, we can help facilitate a return to work through our career management and re-entry programs.

Overall, it can be difficult to tackle substance abuse in the workplace. As an employee, you might be worried about ramifications to your career or how to get the right help, or even how to discuss your need for help with your employer. As an employer it’s important that you have effective practices in place and that you have a substance use policy and understand which actions are most supportive.

Reach out to Providence Treatment to find help with substance abuse in the workplace.

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