Substance Abuse and the Workplace

The term “substance abuse” can mean many things:

  • The overuse of alcohol.
  • Misuse of over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs.
  • Use of illegal drugs.
  • Inhaling noxious vapors, such as solvents, lighter fluid and glue.
  • Eating “magic mushrooms” or other hallucinogenic plants.

A person who has been using drugs or alcohol has a significantly increased risk of having an accident. Drugs such as alcohol, marijuana and other depressants are dangerous because their strong “sedating effect” can severely impair a person’s reaction time and make it difficult for them to think clearly. Drugs can also cause a person to act impulsively and take chances that he or she normally would not.

Substance abuse in the workplace is a dangerous and expensive problem, writes Buddy T., Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Alcohol and drug abuse by employees cause many expensive problems for business and industry ranging from lost productivity, injuries, and an increase the health insurance claims.

The loss to companies in the United States due to alcohol and drug-related abuse by employees totals $100 billion a year, according to the The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, while in Canada The Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission has estimated the annual cost of workers absent or tardy due to substance abuse to be approximately $400 million just in Alberta alone.

The recent story by Nick Miroff “A Dark Addiction” in the Washington Post is a chilling reminder of the dangers of misusing painkillers.

A record 248 people died of overdoses in Virginia’s western region in 2006, more than those who died from homicides, house fires and alcohol-related car accidents combined. That was an 18 percent increase from 2005 and a 270 percent increase from a decade ago, state medical examiner records show.

There are several free resources to help employers and employees deal with substance abuse in the workplace. OSHA works closely with the US Department of Labor’s Working Partners for an Alcohol and Drug-Free Workplace program to help employers develop a drug free work environment. Other resources you may find helpful:

Drug-Free Workplace Advisor Program Builder
Substance Abuse Information Database (SAID)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Training & Educational Materials we offer:
Preventing Drug and Alcohol Abuse Training Programs
Alcohol & Drug Testing Training/Awareness Program
Dealing with Drug and Alcohol Abuse for Managers and Supervisors Safety Meeting Kit