Addressing Addiction in the Workplace

By Alana Smart / September 9, 2021 / Blog ,

Addressing Addiction in the Workplace

Woman emptying pill bottle into her hand

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, opioid abuse costs employers approximately $10 billion dollars. This comes in the form of absenteeism as well as loss in productivity while employees are on the job. In honor of the recent International Overdose Awareness Day, we are discussing the cost of the opioid crisis and what you can do to help your employees.

Drug overdose fatalities have continued to rise since the 1990’s and 2020 saw the largest annual increase in fifty years. Substance use has skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and overdose deaths have increased almost 30% from 2019. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states workplace unintentional overdose deaths have increased 24% each year from 2011 to 2018. Three industries have consistently seen the highest rates of overdose, year after year; Transportation and warehousing, construction, and healthcare. In order to keep your company healthy and productive, a positive culture and education needs to be available for your employees.

How to address addiction issues in your company

Institute a Substance Use Policy: Clearly state expectations, any drug screening protocols within your company, and the consequences for violating that policy.

Educate your staff about addiction: Encourage staff to be supportive and understanding of coworkers struggling with addiction. Provide training opportunities for all employees that cover types of drugs, health impacts of misusing them, and how substance use can affect behavior and performance at work.

Specify what constitutes reasonable suspicion: Define what the signs and symptoms can be physically observed, such changes in gait or speech, needless risk taking, or erratic work patterns and incorporate them into your policies. Designate those in your company that must witness and report suspicious activity.

Provide Employee Assistance Programs: Evaluate your health programs to determine if appropriate coverage is available to your employees and inform them of any workplace or union sponsored programs. Invest in support programs, such as peer based programs that can teach coping mechanisms and recovery skills.

Reduce the stigma: Many individuals who struggle with substance use have experienced prejudice, social exclusion and discrimination due their addiction. Easily accessible educational materials, as well as consistent discussions with your staff of the nature of substance use disorders, treatment, and recovery, may help reduce stigma.

Employers with successful education and employee assistance programs report greater morale, greater productivity and decreased absenteeism, accidents, and turnover. Employers with longstanding programs in conjunction with regular drug testing and clear policies also report better health statuses among employees and family members and decreased use of medical benefits.

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