Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

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Many people suffer from addictions to drugs and alcohol. Employees who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to make decisions that are not safe. Substance abuse increases sick time, decreases productivity, and leads to accidents. Employers need to address alcohol and drug abuse to protect the company and their employees.

For Employees

Employers can help create a drug-free workplace by implementing a substance abuse program with a policy on drugs and alcohol. The policy will explain to employees what is prohibited and the actions that will be taken for violating the policy.

What a Policy Includes:

Any substance that alters performance is not allowed

Reasons for policy


Behavior at company events

Drug testing parameters

Resources for help


For Managers or Supervisors

Managers and supervisors are responsible for implementing the policy, keeping employees informed, and observing behavior. It is essential that managers understand the substance abuse policy and their roles and responsibilities. They should not attempt to diagnose alcohol or drug abuse, and they should never attempt to treat the problems.


Explain policies.

Observe behavior.

Document unsatisfactory behavior.

Recognize signs of substance abuse.

Address the problem.

When to Address

A substance abuse policy should help prevent inappropriate behavior at work. Unfortunately, some employees may still abuse alcohol or drugs at work. Managers should be careful when addressing this topic, and not accuse every employee who looks a little tired of being addicted to drugs or alcohol. Every manager should be trained to recognize the behavior caused by different drugs and how it is diagnosed.

Managers need to keep a paper trail of odd behavior and use the facts to confront the individual. Do not attack the employee personally. It is important to discuss work performance. Follow the policies governing drug testing, and refer the employee to resources for help. It may be necessary to terminate an employee who has substance abuse problems.

Implementing a “No Tolerance” Rule

A “no tolerance” rule regarding alcohol and drugs is being embraced by more and more organizations. This usually requires drug testing as proof that the policy has been violated. It is usually wise to speak with a lawyer before drafting a drug testing policy. No tolerance may mean that the employee who violates the rule is terminated immediately. Some companies choose to refer their employees to treatment once, and terminate employment after a second positive. The point is that substance abuse is not ever allowed to continue in the workplace.

What to Include in a Drug Testing Policy:

Legal requirements

Disability discrimination provisions

Collective bargaining agreements

Who is tested

When tests occur

Drugs tested

Testing procedures

Frequency of tests

Actions taken

More About Safety in The Workplace

Managers Role in Workplace Safety
Safety in the Workplace Training
Stress Management in the Workplace
Workplace Violence
Identifying your Company Hazards
Writing the Safety in the Workplace Plan
Implement the Safety in the Workplace Plan