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Employers have reason to be concerned about addiction in the workplace. Research in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that employees with substance use disorders or addictions miss significantly more work, leave their jobs more often, and cost their employers more from healthcare services than employees without addictions. Offering help for employee drug addiction can reduce these negative consequences and keep workplaces safe and productive.
Employee drug addiction may become particularly problematic with the transition to remote work during the pandemic. Anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic may lead people to cope through drug abuse. Data collected by The Recovery Village points to a 36% increase in past-month illicit drug use in 2020. Remote workers may also feel an added sense of isolation or loneliness. When combined with anxiety, these feelings could lead to relapse or increased drug use.
Remote workers may also have additional opportunities for substance abuse. Reporting to work may have previously motivated them to stay sober, but they have less motivation to stay abstinent at home. It is also easier to use drugs privately at home than at work, so people may return to substance abuse or increase their use while working remotely, which can interfere with their work performance.
It is important to communicate to employees working from home that workplace substance abuse policies still apply. They may argue that what they do privately at home is not their employer’s business. Still, the reality is that as long as they are on the payroll and under a contract to perform work, they must adhere to workplace policy.
Keep in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not allow an employer to discriminate against an employee with a history of addiction. However, nothing in this law prevents an employer from implementing a drug-free workplace policy or taking action against employees using illegal drugs. This means that you can discipline employees who use drugs during paid time while working remotely.
If you are concerned about addiction in the workplace, identifying the signs of substance abuse among employees is a necessary skill. Understanding the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder or addiction can be helpful.
Here are some indicators that an employee may be struggling with addiction:
When you suspect an employee is struggling with an addiction, you may be unsure how to proceed. It can be a sensitive issue, but there are ways to address it while simultaneously respecting the employee and protecting your organization. Consider the following tips:
When talking to an employee about drug addiction, these strategies can help you encourage them to seek treatment:
Another way to address addiction in the workplace is to offer resources to employees. You can begin by being a resource yourself. Keep open lines of communication with your employees so they will be willing to come to you for help. Keep a contact list of area treatment providers or nonprofits where you may send employees for treatment.
Providing an employee assistance program or EAP is another important step. Large employers may offer an EAP in-house, but many employers choose to contract with outside providers to offer services. EAPs can provide drug addiction prevention programs to your organization, and they can offer assessments, short-term counseling and referrals to other needed health and social services.
Related: How Addiction is Impacting Your Company
If you are looking for assistance with offering resources and drug addiction recovery support, The Recovery Village is here to help. We can provide you with guidance in developing an EAP or creating policies to address drugs at work. For employees seeking addiction treatment in Colorado, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is located just minutes from the Denver Airport. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
Goplerud, Eric, et al. “A Substance Use Cost Calculator for U[…]ication Misuse.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, November 2017. Accessed March 14, 2021.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is drug addiction?” July 2018. Accessed March 14, 2021.
Rogers, Andrew H., et al. “Psychological factors associated with[…]COVID-9 pandemic.” Psychiatry Research, November 2020. Accessed March 14, 2021.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Federal laws and regulations.” August 4, 2020. Accessed March 14, 2021.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Provide Support.” December 3, 2020. Accessed March 14, 2021.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “What You Should Know About COVID-19 a[…]d Other EEO Laws.” December 16, 2020. Accessed March 14, 2021.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
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