Substance Abuse in the Workplace: Resources for Employers

The prevalence and the negative impact of substance abuse in the workplace is profound. Warning signs of substance abuse are usually observable, and by recognizing the behaviors, employers can actively respond. Legal obligations relative to employees with addictions and implementing a substance abuse policy can be challenging to navigate. In an environment with increasingly legalized marijuana and an exploding prescription opioid epidemic, employers must face the reality of an increase in substance abuse. But how big of a problem is drug and alcohol use in the workplace?

The Scale of the Problem

  • About 15 million employed Americans suffer from Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
  • One in 11 Americans in the workforce have SUD
  • 67% of HR professionals believe substance abuse is one of the most pressing issues they face in the workforce

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that 68.9% of the estimated 22.4 million drug users over the age of 18 are employed full or part-time. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found an average of 8.7% of full-time workers ages 18 to 64 heavily used alcohol in the past 30 days, and 8.6% used illegal drugs. An additional and 9.5% were dependent on or abused alcohol or drugs in the past year.

Effects of Substance Abuse on Business

Assisting even some workers with SUD can positively affect business and potentially saves serious sums of money for employers. The problem is not limited to on-the-job consumption, and individuals who never use drugs and alcohol while working can negatively impact the workplace.

How the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) Measures the Impact on Workplaces

  • Absenteeism
  • Work presenteeism
  • Work engagement
  • Life satisfaction
  • Workplace distress

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the drugs in the workplace results in about $200 billion in lost productivity annually.

Estimated Costs of the Problem

  • $8 billion in cost to businesses in Colorado due to substance abuse
  • $20,000 total cost per person with SUD per year
  • 280% Mortality rate fir SUD patients relative to the general population

 

HR’s Role

Given the negative impact in the workplace on safety, productivity, and financial costs, HR professionals can and should address the issue by implementing a substance abuse policy. Learning to identify the warning signs of substance abuse, HR teams can guide employees who exhibit signs to safe and effective treatment centers.

Many substance abusers don’t seek help because they are unwilling to accept that their use has become problematic. Because denial is a powerful coping mechanism, employees may reject the idea that substance use problems exist or that the addictions have become apparent to others. Some substance abusers may distrust assurances of confidentiality by treatment centers, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and HR departments. Many addicts, especially those with professional, white-collar jobs, are sensitive to the stigma associated with the label, an addict or an alcoholic.

Supervisors and managers often fail to act because they have not received training to identify possible warning signs of addiction. Frequently, they only recognize the symptoms until after failed an accident, failed or missed drug tests, or an embarrassing incident. HR leaders must play an important role when managing employees with substance abuse problems.

Implementing Substance Abuse Policies

The U.S. Department of Labor recommends all employers have a written workplace policy that is shared with all employees during the onboarding process that clearly states expectations and rules regarding alcohol and drug use.

Most employers have several options for dealing with employees with alcohol or drug problems. However, some collective bargaining agreements or the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules for employees in safety-sensitive positions may mandate specific requirements. There may be particular requirements, such as the terms of collective bargaining agreements or the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules for employees in safety-sensitive positions. More information and guidance on those topics can found here: What are the requirements for drug testing commercial vehicle operators and employees who drive as part of the job?

Employers who do $100,000 worth of business with the federal government or receive federal grants of any amount are required to comply with the Drug-Free Workplace Act. At a bare minimum, said employers are required to have a drug awareness program. The law’s specific requirements include:

  • Publishing a statement notifying employees that it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess, or use a controlled substance and that those actions are prohibited in the workplace. The statement must include information to advise employees that violations have actionable consequences.
  • Requiring employees to inform the company or organization of criminal drug convictions while employed. The organization must then notify the federal government of any violations.
  • Officially certifying to the federal government that the organization follows the law’s rules and regulations.

 

drug abuse in the workplace

Recognizing Warning Signs of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

The list below outlines behavioral characteristics that may be present with substance useThey are not always indicative of a substance use problem are general warning signs to watch out for. They do not always indicate a substance abuse problem, but they may warrant further observation.

  • Absenteeism without notice or excessive use of sick days
  • Frequent absences from the worksite and long, unexplained absences, or unusual excuses
  • Failure to keep appointments and deadlines
  • Work performance fluctuating between periods of high and low productivity
  • Increase in accidents
  • Poor judgment and errors attributable to inattention
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating or recalling details of meetings and assigned tasks
  • Increases in time required for ordinary tasks
  • Poor interpersonal relations with co-workers and managers
  • Lack of ownership for mistakes
  • Deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene
  • Signs of personal and professional isolation
  • Physical symptoms of hangovers, exhaustion, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, slurred speech, or an unstable walking

Referring Employees for Treatment

AspenRidge Recovery has experience treating individuals from all socioeconomic and employment backgrounds. We also offer a host of programs to serve individuals with vastly different needs. We can also provide additional information on substance abuse in the workplace and ways to mitigate challenges and risks.

Such services at AspenRidge include several options of which are listed below.

Our two different IOP programs offer hope for recovery for people with diverse backgrounds.

Professional IOP

substance use in a workplaceBecause drug and alcohol addiction doesn’t discriminate, it can affect anyone at any time, including working professionals. About 15 million professionals are working with a substance use disorder, and only one in ten seek treatment. Often standard inpatient residential rehab isn’t practical long-term. Few individuals have the luxury to walk away from their work for several months, even if they need and want treatment. This is where AspenRidge Recovery’s Professional Intensive Outpatient Program (PIOP) can play a role. Only located at our Fort Collins treatment facility, our PIOP is innovative, offering customized treatment for working adults.

While similar to many intensive outpatient programs where individuals get the treatment they need, our PIOP focuses on helping working adults with their unique issues. Drugs or alcohol don’t have to damage your work or home life any longer. Recovery is possible through treatment explicitly crafted to the needs of working professionals.

How a Professional Intensive Outpatient Program Works

While typical residential treatment for substance use disorder, mental health issues, or trauma can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, intensive outpatient treatment allows clients to remain active in their daily life. Our Intensive Outpatient treatment for working adults delivers the same quality of care with sessions in the evenings so individuals can both work and receive treatment. AspenRidge’s professional intensive outpatient program (PIOP) is a 12-week program that includes individual, group and family therapy. Topics of discussion will focus on those pertinent to the lives of working adults and broader therapeutic concerns. For example, other issues addressed during our professional intensive outpatient program in Colorado may include:

  • Stress management
  • Creating a work-life balance
  • Rebuilding trust with partners and family
  • Self-conception and one’s purpose
  • Coping strategies for underlying mental health issues
  • Rebuilding self-confidence and learning forgiveness
  • Examining the root causes of addiction and what it means to have a sober identity

We’ve designed PIOP to create a supportive therapeutic environment, specifically catering to the working professional experience. Within drug and alcohol treatment, patients form a stable and dependable foundation for their recovery. Doing so involves learning new techniques to handle stress, maintain work-life balance, navigating always shifting social norms, and rebuilding trust with partners and family damaged during substance abuse. Working through these issues allows patients to return all aspects of their personal and professional lives to a healthy, fulfilling state. No matter your addiction or mental health issue, our professional intensive outpatient program can help you heal. Some of the substance use disorders and mental health issues we treat include:

Community IOP

What is a Community Intensive Outpatient Program?

A community intensive outpatient program is a six to twelve-week intensive outpatient program. This option is ideal if you are transitioning from a residential treatment program or a partial hospitalization program.

Topics that we may address during our community intensive outpatient program include:

  • How to manage stress and balance your life
  • Changes in your self-concept and exploring your purpose
  • How to cope with your underlying mental health issues
  • How to repair your relationships
  • What your core beliefs are, and how they perpetuate substance abuse
  • How to forgive yourself and build self-confidence
  • What your root causes of addiction are, and how to create a sober identity
  • How to manage self-care and maintain stability during change and vulnerability

Treatment at AspenRidge Recovery

addiction resources for employersWe offer our community intensive outpatient program at all three of our AspenRidge Recovery locations in Lakewood, Lone Tree and Fort Collins. These substance abuse treatment facilities are exceptional choices for anyone suffering from addiction. Our passion is to help make sobriety an integral part of daily life. We can help develop coping skills during one or more of our addiction therapy programs. These therapy programs may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Life skills training

These therapy options can be part of individualized treatment. As part of our addiction treatment programs, we also offer dual diagnosis treatment in our community intensive outpatient program. Mental illness and addiction often appear together. Sometimes addiction causes mental illness. Other times mental illness causes addiction. In both cases, it is critical to get treatment for both disorders at the same time. That is where a dual diagnosis program can be helpful. Dual diagnosis programs allow us to treat these problems simultaneously for those who suffer from both an addiction and a mental illness.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

An employer’s actions related to employees who use or abuse alcohol or drug and or who are recovering from substance abuse may be subject to federal laws and regulations. Chiefly among those laws is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in employment discrimination. According to the EEOC Technical Assistance Manual, Title I of the ADA, “A person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection simply because of alcohol use. An alcoholic is a person with a disability under the ADA and may be entitled to consideration of accommodation if s/he is qualified to perform the essential functions of a job. However, an employer may discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct to the extent that s/he is not ‘qualified.'”

The use of illegal drugs is not protected under the ADA, but people in recovery are. According to the EEOC’s Technical Assistance Manual, “Persons addicted to drugs, but who are no longer using drugs illegally and are receiving treatment for drug addiction or who have been rehabilitated successfully, are protected by the ADA from discrimination on the basis of past drug addiction.” However, a drug test that shows that the employee is using an illegal substance constitutes “using drugs illegally” and therefore bars the employee from ADA protections.

The ADA states that employers can prohibit the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace and require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Employers can hold employees who are alcoholics or drug addicts to the same performance standards that apply to other employees.  

State laws may also direct employer policies and procedures, and it’s essential to check rules applying your state.

Prescription Drug Use

drug use policy in a workplaceIn addition to illicit drugs, prescription medications can also affect the ability to work safely. Nonetheless, employers are prohibited from discriminating against these individuals in their hiring and firing practices if the medications are for legitimate medical reasons. Such discrimination could be a violation of the ADA.

The ADA also prohibits employers from asking related questions unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Employers can not have one, all-encompassing policy requiring employees to disclose prescription drug use.

Employers can maintain a safe working environment for all and address prescription drug abuse by implementing the following:

  • Ensure the drug and alcohol policy addresses prescription drug use
  • Train managers and supervisors on the potential signs impairment workplace policies
  • Promote the employee assistance program
  • Test for prescription medications if and when required
  • Partner with their healthcare and workers’ compensation insurance providers to prevent and treat opioid use

AspenRidge Recovery

AspenRidge is focused on providing the best care possible. This does include working with patients and their families to offer the best possible outcome. As part of the services received at AspenRidge, each patient will be provided the ability to speak with specialists about insurance and other financial responsibilities. It is encouraged for prospective individuals to contact AspenRidge and their employer should they feel comfortable discussing their rehabilitative services. AspenRidge is dedicated and is legally obligated to follow all Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements. Confidentiality will be maintained at AspenRidge.

Further information for treatment programs can be found on our website or by giving AspenRidge Recovery Centers a call directly 24/7 is also available by phone at 855-678-3144.