Drugs & alcohol on the job — more prevalent than you’d think
When you're addicted, you're addicted. And over time, any place may be the perfect spot to satisfy a fix — even the office.
A new survey from DrugAbuse.com finds those with substance use disorders bringing their habits to work with them. More than one in five workers in the study said they've used drugs or alcohol on the job. An alarming 62% said they know at least one person who've used narcotics or had an unsanctioned drink at work.
By far, according to the survey, alcohol is the most used substance on the job. Recreational marijuana is a distant second, followed by Oxycontin/Vicodin. Some workers admitted to using illegal substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin in the workplace.
"It's actually costing employers about $81 billion a year, so that's how prevalent it is," said Joanne McCarthy, director of call center services for NJ Connect for Recovery. "It's leading to things like people leaving work, having accidents on the job."
The free, confidential line (855-652-3737) serves residents dealing with substance abuse, along with their families, friends and coworkers. The call line can provide education and support to employees and employers on how to identify a worker coping with a drug issue, as well as information on treatment options and recovery resources available.
Substance use disorder is a progressive disease. At the start, a user may be able to function at work without the drugs or alcohol in their system.
"But eventually it's going to bottom out," McCarthy said.
Apart from someone whipping out their flask in the middle of a meeting, or popping pills in the break room, it can be difficult to discern whether an employee is using on the job or is under the influence.
Depending on the drug involved, McCarthy said, signs could include sudden mood swings or fatigue. Over time, she added, one's job performance will take a hit.
"One of the biggest indicators, I think — suddenly their attendance changes dramatically," McCarthy said.
Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said many employers have an Employee Assistance Program in place. The confidential counseling, free and sometimes part of a health care plan, assists employees with personal problems that may be adversely affecting their work performance.
Drug policies in general, Siekerka said, are zero tolerance, especially for safety sensitive positions. If an employee is drug tested and fails, employers "can take progressive discipline up to and including termination in many cases," she said.
An analysis of more than 10 million workplace drug test results, by Secaucus-based Quest Diagnostics, uncovered a 14-year high of workforce drug positivity.
In the DrugAbuse.com survey, one in 10 respondents said they have purchased an item or ingested a substance to help them beat a random drug test.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.