Episode 003 – The Substance Abuse Epidemic

Episode 003 – The Substance Abuse Epidemic


According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (NCADD) as of 2018 more than 70% of those abusing illicit drugs in America are employed, as are most binge drinkers. 


 So let’s get to what’s happening Right Now!


Right Now –


Unfortunately I have first hand experience in dealing with people and substance abuse, both personally and in business. The number of people suffering from addiction in the US is astounding, in 2017 19.7 million adults battle addiction disorders, and that number of “adults” is considered age 12 and older … think about that … Almost 74% of adults with a substance abuse disorder also struggled with an alcohol use disorder. An estimated $740 billion dollars is lost annually in the workplace productivity, healthcare expenses and crime related costs, let me repeat that number $740 billion dollars! These statistics are from the American Addiction Center a rehabilitation and mental health facility, meaning they help with  people struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. In places like New York State, a rehabilitation facility must now also be licensed to treat co-occurring mental health disorders, which are mental disorders that a person may have while having a substance abuse disorder. These problems are intertwined, and can mask each other. It is a chicken vs. egg theory, which behaviors happen because of which issue. Substance abuse is is not an at home issue, substance abuse in the workplace can cause lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft and low employee morale. Other consequences are increased healthcare costs, human resource issues, legal liabilities and increased workers’ compensation rates. 


What does that mean for Schmos?


Well, it means alot. First and foremost is means that substance abuse is a health issue not a choice. Employers who deal with addiction in the workplace benefit from taking a firm stand on substance abuse and having a plan for dealing with employees who are struggling. We can’t stress it enough, Policy, Policy, Policy. Are your policies for substance abuse state and federally compliant? Maybe it is time to update your policy and procedure. Your first guard against liability is a pre-hire drug screen. You can go back to the previous podcast on Marijuana in the Workplace for weed specific questions. A pre-hire drug screening should always involve a medical review officer, someone who is certified in reading drug testing results. This provides two different things, 1. I will bet you aren’t certified to read the results and you don’t have a MRO on staff. 2. You want to keep this at Arms length, you want to be able to say this drug test was read by someone with no relationship with the company, except of course that you are paying them to read it. Now an applicant can’t claim you influenced the test in any way. How do you protect yourself while an employee is a problem on the job? Most states have a reasonable suspicion policy that you can utilize if you feel someone is high/drunk on the job. Again a reasonable suspicion drug test should be read by an MRO for the arms length approach. Finally you need a policy when an employee is proved to be on a substance while at work, the is where an EAP, Employee Assistance Program is a big help. Before I go in EAPs I want to stress, some job classifications have different rules regarding drug testing like, the fact that a refusal of a DOT driver to take a suspicion test or a random test is an automatic fail. Be careful, make sure you understand what laws the job classification is under. Back to the EAP, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.  EAPs address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders. EAP counselors also work in a consultative role with managers and supervisors to address employee and organizational challenges and needs.  Many EAPs are active in helping organizations prevent and cope with workplace violence, trauma, and other emergency response situations. We cannot stress this resource enough, whether it is a substance abuse problem or not, the EAP is a resource every company should utilize. Just like with the marijuana in the workplace podcast, please consult your labor attorney for specific details and questions. 

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