By Steps to Recovery on December 4, 2012

Did you know, according to the American Council for Drug Addiction, around 18 million people in the United States abuse alcohol, approximately 2 million use heroin, about 23 million use marijuana at least four times weekly and 6 million Americans use cocaine regularly….And more than 70% of those substance abusers are employed. Shocking, isn’t it? You may have a co-worker addicted to a substance and not even know it.

Even if they do not use on the job, compared to workers who do not abuse alcohol or drugs, substance abusers are:

  • 10 times more likely to miss work
  • 5 times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim
  • 3.6 times more likely to become involved in job related accidents

People with substance abuse problems pose a major problem to the whole employee base. Substance abusers can increase accident risks, lower productivity and raise insurance costs for everyone.

Substance abusers can be difficult to identify but there are some signs to look out for:

  • Frequent and unexplained absences or being late
  • Involvement in accidents on and off the job
  • Physical exhaustion, slurred speech, poor hygiene
  • Erratic work patterns
  • Lack in productivity

Many places of employment have a comprehensive drug-free workplace program. As an employee, this can be the company policy that helps you deal with the problem of a co-worker who you are aware is a substance abuser. A program like this is the best way to prevent, detect and deal with substance abusers in the workplace.

One segment of this program might be a written policy that is supported by management and communicated to each of the employees upon being hired. This policy should be very clear about what is expected of employees regarding violations. A component could be drug education that focuses on the dangers of drug and alcohol use, especially in the workplace, and where counseling and treatment can be found. Often, supervisors, human resources staff and other management are trained on how to identify and deal with employees who have a drug or alcohol problem. A drug testing program, designed to prevent the hiring of those who ingest illegal drugs is also usually part of a workplace substance abuse policy. Finally, an employee assistance program might be able to help the individual get the help they need to address their issue.

Anonymous reporting options include reporting to human resources or the appropriate management. They are obligated to act and remain confidential about any specifics regarding a substance problem of an employee. If you feel your coworker has a problem that is affecting his or her job or the safety and/or productivity of the employees around them, it is your responsibility to make management aware of the situation. Substance abuse and the workplace is a really difficult thing to deal with and address, but it’s best to not put yourself or your job in danger because your coworker has a problem.