SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEMS IN THE WORKPLACE
Gianni DeVincent Hayes, Ph.D
How much thought have you given to the company you hired to do remodeling? Enough to consider that the employer may unwittingly send a worker to do the job who drinks every day and, under the influence, failed to secure the load-bearing wall he’s working on which unexpectedly will come crashing down on you or a loved one, or a visitor one day?
How about a stoned lab tech running your tests and coming back stating you have an incurable disease when in actuality it’s not that at all? Or what about the reverse, where the drugged tech entirely misses a disease that could have been treated but instead turned into something fatal because his error deprived you of the treatment you could have had?
And how many times have you heard about people who have lost their lives because a company worker was driving drunk and killed an innocent pedestrian or those in another vehicle?
Just as scary are the pilots who get away with transporting planeloads of people while being alcohol or drug-impaired. Maybe one had insufferable back pain for days and over-took his prescribed pain medication and then piloted a plane drugged? After all, abusing prescription medication is becoming a bigger problem than using illicit drugs.
Ever think about the number of people we trust to do a commendable, steadfast, careful job who drink or do drugs to feel good, erase pain, or just to maintain a level in their body to seem “normal”?
Not Just the Kids; On-the-Job, Too
We worry about our kids doing drugs and alcohol but yet give little thought to what’s going on where we or others work. Drug usage is high in the workforce, and perhaps the most dangerous because employees have jobs that affect not only other workers but the general public who relies on them for sound, safe, reliable, and quality service or products. Employers’ businesses can quickly go down the drain if an employee has an accident while driving under the influence, or if a worker on drugs harms himself or others while performing his tasks. What’s worse is that the unknowing public trusts employees, and if they fail to perform to standards because they are drunk or high, innocent patrons get hurt.
More employers are coming to understand that they must implement a drug/alcohol testing policy to protect themselves, their company, their other employees, and their patrons, as well as the general public. Nearly all states permit workforce testing. But guess who the employees are who are working under the influence: They’re the adults whose parents didn’t test them when they were kids.
Every employee has the right to a drug free workplace. Alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse certainly endanger the safety of the abusing employee, but it also imperils every other employee. In a nationwide survey performed for The Institute for a Drug Free Workplace, the Gallup Organization reported that 28% of the full-time employees surveyed identified illicit drug abuse as the greatest threat facing America today. Consider these figures by SafeWork:
Regarding a study of alcohol consumption by Modell and Mountz ("The Problem of Alcohol Use by Pilots," in New England Journal of Medicine, 1990) “when airline pilots had to perform routine tasks in a simulator under three alcohol test conditions, it was found that: “
Every day, in large corporations and small businesses all across the country, the problems caused by substance abuse disrupt the workplace. There is a false perception that America's drug problem is youth-orientated. However, two-thirds of drug abusers are employed. If you are in business you must be aware of these facts:
And There’s More
These statistics barely touch the surface. The National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance states that:
Many employees know who is stoned or sauced on the job but say little to nothing about it. In fact, often workers take their drugs or alcohol just to seem normal to others when in reality they are equally as high as binge users.
Employees are hesitant to report co-workers for fear of retaliation by the employee under the influence, and they worry they might lose their jobs, or that they’re not being fair or loyal to their friends on AODs. But their silence is harming not only them and other workers, but their jobs as well because if their employers will likely go under due to liability lawsuits from damages by users under drugs and alcohol. The best thing to do is to talk to the fellow worker and then talk to the employer. If employers value their workers who are having problems, they will guide them to getting help.
No employer should enact consequences against an employee for drug or alcohol problems unless they have a drug/alcohol policy that lays out the purpose of drug testing, how it will be managed, what the consequences will be, and so on. Many employers don’t want to test their employees for fear of losing key members or irreplaceable staff in their workplace. The restaurant industry is a good example of this where finding good help to begin with is difficult, and then testing them and learning that many be doing alcohol or drugs means they may very well have to close up shop. Yet, not testing them is even more detrimental.
Ironically, it is the very businesses that don’t test their employees that have the highest number of workers engaged in alcohol or drugs.
Since 1988, Drug testing in the workforce has been legal in nearly every state.
The Department of Labor advises that though “Drug testing is not required under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, and that the majority of employers across the United States are not required to test and many state and local governments have statutes that limit or prohibit workplace testing, unless required by state or Federal regulations for certain jobs…most private employers have the right to test for a wide variety of substances…. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires some federal contractors and all federal grantees to agree that they will provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a federal agency.” The DoL (Department of Labor) offers these most common reasons employers implement drug testing are to:
Employers should work with professional drug testing companies that understand the rules and regulations for the states where the companies are located and/or conduct business. Drug and alcohol policies should be implemented, along with the testing program, but perhaps the most important component is employee and supervisor education.
So start by preventing any problems by testing tomorrow’s leaders in the privacy of your home; in the meantime, employers ought to be testing their workforce to protect themselves and others. It’s a pretty simple thing to do to save on a massive, complicated problem that will no doubt arise sooner than later.
It’s important that the companies hire drug and alcohol-clean people who can provide us with safe and quality service and products. Equally important is putting people in jobs who can serve as positive role models for our children, our future leaders. Kids imprint after adults. If we want to keep them drug-free, then we adults must do the same.
Tomorrow may not be “another day” for users and abusers.
Drug and alcohol abuse - an
important workplace issue
© 2006 Gianni Hayes - All Rights
Dr. Gianni DeVincent Hayes is an internationally recognized author of 14 royalty-published books (creative-services.biz and amazon.com) and over 100 articles and short stories in highly circulated and commercial newspapers and magazines, such as PARADE, US, PEOPLE, REDBOOK, WOMAN'S DAY, MOODY, and many others. One of her novels, "22 Friar Street," had been under a movie option, and her novel and screenplay on cloning, "Thy Brothers' Reaper," also had been optioned by a production company. "Jacob's Demon" is her newest novel on the Apocalypse. She also owns American Drug Testing Consultants which sells drug and alcohol test kits and does workforce testing, americandtc.com.
She's completing a full-length book on substance abuse as well as one on conspiracies, symbols, and secret societies in all aspects of our lives. See thenazarzine.com to learn about her religious/patriotic stance. Her writing service website is theamusezine.com. She has her own radio show, "New World Order Disorder," on theamericanvoice.com, Wednesdays, from 8:00pm-10:00pm, EST, which is heard worldwide. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hayes has a doctorate in writing/comparative literature /humanities, with a focus on eschatology (Bible prophecy and politics); her bachelor degree and first and second master's degrees are in biology/chemistry and education. Certification has been achieved at several universities, such as the University of Rochester, University of Pittsburgh, and Middlebury College's Breadloaf. She speaks worldwide and has appeared on dozens of national radio and TV shows.
Book her for speaking engagements.
More employers are coming to understand that they must implement a drug/alcohol testing policy to protect themselves, their company, their other employees, and their patrons, as well as the general public.