substance abuse in the workplace

Dealing with Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Substance abuse in the workplace endangers workers and your business. Here are some of the most common workplace issues surrounding substance abuse and what you can do to minimize your risks.

Prevalence in California

According to a 2015 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study, alcohol and marijuana are the most commonly used drugs in California. California has one of the highest percentages of marijuana use in the country, particularly in northern regions.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that illicit drug use, including abuse of prescription medicine, continues to rise. Unfortunately, illicit drug use outside or within the workplace affects worker performance, productivity, and safety for everyone.

Negative Impact

According to OSHA, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found a likely statistical association between illicit drug use, including marijuana, and workplace accidents. This increased risk can lead to more insurance claims, higher healthcare costs and insurance premiums, and lower productivity.

Illicit drugs impair reflexes and judgment which reduces safety and endangers others. Other negative effects include increases in the following areas:

  • Absenteeism
  • Tardiness
  • Fatalities
  • Premature deaths
  • Employee dissatisfaction
  • Workplace disruption
  • Violence
  • Stress
  • Staff turnover

Financial Impact

The National Council on Alcohol Abuse and Drug Dependence states 70% of people who use illegal drugs are employed and drug abuse costs US employers $81 billion annually in lost productivity.

A 2006 study estimates “workplace alcohol use and impairment directly affect an estimated 15% of the U.S. workforce.” A five-year study also shows it leads to more workers’ compensation claims.

California law precludes compensability caused by intoxication, including alcohol and marijuana (3600 (a) (4). Consequently, if an employer can prove the injury results from recreational or medical drugs, the employee does not receive compensation. However, prevention is always preferable over claims disputes and legal issues.

Drug-Free Workplace

A drug-free workplace program isn’t costly to implement and it offers many benefits. The program has five components including creating a written policy, training supervisors, educating employees, screening for drugs, and assisting employees so they can overcome their issues.

The California state constitution includes very specific legislation for drug testing to protect a person’s “right to privacy.” Employers must have a “reasonable basis” for testing and use accurate and reliable testing methods. Valid drug screening triggers include pre-placement, random spot tests, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, and return to work and follow-up.

The SAMHSA website offers in-depth information on federal and state legislation, how to build and evaluate your program, and drug testing. They also include helpful tips to avoid legal problems. Don’t wait until a drug-related incident occurs. Act, and prevent them.

A drug-free program always starts from the top. Management and supervisors must make safety a priority, but they must also support their employees.

Substance abuse in the workplace is a threat to business and employees. Monitoring employee performance, encouraging coworkers to report potential risks, and providing counseling and treatment to affected employees increases the chances of success.

Discuss your insurance coverage with your local independent insurer to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities. They are valuable partners who can help you reduce risk and protect you when you need it. They can also provide valuable advice when you develop your drug-free workplace program.