How to Tackle Workplace Substance Abuse


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While you may think that substance abuse in the workplace is none of your business, it can have a significant impact on the company you work for, on you and your colleagues, and of course on the person who is using alcohol or drugs while, before or after working. In fact, an American study on the impact of drug abuse on employers found that such substance abuse in the workplace costs companies about $81 billion a year!

In a culture whether alcohol consumption is seen as normal, alcohol abuse problems tend to be rampant. Canadians drink more than 50% more than the global average according to a recent study. In terms of the global burden of disease and injury, alcohol is now the third leading cause. Close to 50,000 Canadians a year die from substance abuse related causes every year and substance abuse has cost $8 billion to the Canadian health system.

While men are more likely to be addicted than women, women who are addicts are 54% more likely to die as a result of substance abuse. There is also a link between addiction and mental health disorders, with those suffering from some type of mental illness being twice as likely to have a substance abuse problem; similarly you are three times more likely to develop a mental health issue if you have a substance abuse problem. As many as 15% of those with a substance abuse problem have a mental health problem as well.

Substance abuse, whether of alcohol or drugs, can happen to anyone. Of the nearly 15 million drug addicts in America, 70% are employed. The impact on careers is still huge though, with illegal drug users being twice as likely to have had three or more jobs over a five year period than those without a substance use problem. Tackling substance abuse in the workplace need not be solely punitive. Many employees need help to get their lives back on track. Supporting employees caught up in the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse may include requiring mandatory alcohol addiction treatment or a stay in a drug rehab center as well as ongoing counseling. It also means creating a culture of openness where alcohol use is moderate and it is clear that any form of drug use is unacceptable.

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