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How Talented Workers Get Hooked on Drugs (and How to Get Them Off)

It’s no secret that drugs have seeped into the workforce in nearly every industry in the U.S. USA Today recently reported the results of a survey in which 23 percent of U.S. workers who responded say they have used drugs or alcohol on the job. Roughly six in 10 say they have used alcohol at work, outside of office parties or functions, while nearly 23 percent say they’ve smoked pot on the job. Even if they don’t use themselves, 62 percent say they know at least one person who has had an unsanctioned drink or used narcotics at work.

It isn’t just poor performers at work who are using. Top performers are susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, too. So are managers, and even business owners. Intoxicating chemicals are available at every price point, suited to every social group and class.

The survey’s findings come when the U.S. has been reeling from an opioid crisis, fewer companies are requiring drug tests for job applicants in a competitive job market, and a growing number of states are legalizing marijuana.

Some industries are more prone to substance abuse in the workforce than others. The construction and hospitality industries are among the most profoundly affected—occupations where workers spend a great deal of time on their feet, often doing physical labor that can lead to aches, pains, and fatigue. For a time, at least, drugs and alcohol can soothe these symptoms. Before they know it, workers can become dependent on these substances—and not just after quitting time, either. But lawyers and accountants use drugs on the job, too. So what can business owners do?

A proper, professional drug-free workplace program is the first step. Most important is that the rules against drug and alcohol use are clearly communicated to every employee and applied consistently to everyone. Otherwise, your organization could potentially be sued for discrimination.

When valuable employees tests positive for drugs or alcohol in a random drug test or a post-accident test, many employers become hesitant to discipline them for fear of losing them. While this is understandable, the risks of abuse in the workplace are too great. You don’t have to fire an employee for failing a drug test, but remember: You can’t decide what to do on a case-by-case basis. The next step needs to be outlined in a clearly written substance abuse policy and you need to treat all employees the same way.

Commonly, the drug-screening experts at KRESS are asked if the police must be notified if an employee fails a drug test. The short answer is no. We do not report it to the police, the lab does not report it, and in most cases, the employer does not report it.

If you don’t want to terminate an employee who has failed a drug test, the only other logical option is treatment. Help an employee get treatment, and you can get them back to work eventually. Treatment is the right thing to do for many reasons. You’ll be helping the employee and his or her family, but you’ll also be helping your company.

As we’ve discussed, any treatment options must be written down and distributed to all employees as part of a drug-free workplace policy, and all employees must receive the same options. Otherwise, you could be at risk of a lawsuit. Some employees will take the treatment option. Others will choose to leave your company.

Combatting drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace is a difficult and never-ending battle. KRESS can give your organization the tools it needs to win. Are you ready to implement a successful drug-free workplace policy? Do you have a question about drug abuse in the workplace? Give our screening experts a call or email today. We’ll have the experience and knowledge to help ensure that your business is protected from the threat of substance abuse.

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