Substance Abuse - Illicit Drugs

Substance Abuse in the Workplace – The Risks and How to Help

In today’s world, businesses are constantly challenged to stay agile in their ability to adapt and adjust to a fast-paced and ever-changing environment. This is not only true for small businesses but also for large corporations operating at various locations around the globe.

Any business that has employees needs to understand how it can pose potential threats to safety, productivity, and profitability. By reading this article, you will learn about the dangers of substance abuse in the workplace and how you can help mitigate these risks if they exist within your company.

If you work in an office every day, there’s no way to avoid the risks of substance abuse that come with a job or any other routine daily activity.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is when a person cannot control how they use alcohol or drugs. It is a maladaptive pattern of substance use that results in physical, mental, emotional, or social harm.

Substance Abuse - Illicit Drugs
Substance Abuse – Illicit Drugs

It is a broad term that includes a variety of different maladaptive behaviors, such as excessive alcohol consumption, binge drinking, binge drug use, the use of illicit drugs, abuse of prescription drugs, and the use of inhalants.

It can cause significant harm to the user, their family, and their community. There are many types of substances that are abused, including alcohol, prescription, and illicit drugs, and even some foods. Substances are often energizing or mood-altering substances that produce changes in a person’s mental state and physical function.

Substance abuse is when these substances are used in amounts or manners that are harmful or disruptive to one’s life. The term “substance abuse” is frequently used to encompass drug abuse (use of illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin, or abuse of prescription drugs such as opioid painkillers or tranquilizers) and alcohol dependence, because both types of abuse can have similar negative effects on a person’s health and personal relationships.

The Problem of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

Every year, millions of people are affected by substance abuse. Alcohol and drug use reduce productivity in Australian organizations, which is projected to cost $6 billion annually. According to recent studies, drinking and drug usage result in 2.5 million missed days yearly at a cost of far greater than $680 million.

It may be impacting your employees’ productivity and ability to work, creating a toxic work environment, or leading to accidents and injuries. The problem with substance abuse in the workplace is that it can often go unnoticed and unreported. Employees who are abusing substances may not be willing to be open and honest with their supervisors about their struggles, and mental illness, and other employees may be too afraid to report what they know.

Employees who abuse substances may be unable to operate machinery safely and are at high risk of injury on the job. They may also make mistakes that could lead to accidents with potential negative financial impacts on the company.

Workers who abuse substances often fail to achieve their full potential at work. It impacts people’s ability to function at work. It can cause absenteeism, reduced productivity, and a high rate of turnover.

For example, research shows that substance-abusing workers have an average of five absences per year, compared with two for non-abusing workers.

It can cost a company money. Companies have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for employees and members of the public who visit the office. These obligations can be costly if employees are abusing substances that violate company policies or cause them to make costly errors.

Safety Hazards

For many businesses, accidents are the first sign that substance abuse could be a problem in their offices. Workplace accidents can have serious financial and legal implications, and they can have tragic consequences when they lead to serious injuries or even death. An estimated 25% of workplace deaths are attributable to alcohol.

Driving while intoxicated, getting into physical altercations while intoxicated, and other safety hazards related to alcohol use in the workplace are responsible for many of these deaths.

In addition to dangerous accidents that result in injuries or even death, other safety hazards related to it include:

Negligent accidents

Employees who are drunk or high may cause property damage, improperly fill out paperwork, and make careless mistakes that can lead to workplace injuries.

Unsafe working conditions

Employees who are drunk or high may ignore safety precautions, leading to workplace hazards that put themselves and their coworkers at risk.

A poor work ethic

Employees who abuse substances may prefer to take frequent breaks or decide to leave the office early, skipping out on work that needs to get done.

Substance Abuse - Alcohol
Substance Abuse – Alcohol

Employees who abuse substances may be at risk for injury on the job. These employees are more likely to make mistakes that put them at risk of injury. They are also more likely to be involved in accidents that cause workplace accidents and injuries to others.

The use of drugs and alcohol can impair the ability to think clearly and make good decisions. Employees in this state may be less aware of the potential hazards they face. Therefore, they are more likely to be injured because they are not taking the right steps to protect themselves. Employees who use alcohol or drugs may be less observant of possible hazards.

They may not realize that they need to take special precautions, such as wearing appropriate clothing or using special equipment.

Productivity Hazards

Even if your employees manage to avoid accidents, safety hazards, and other productivity issues related to substance abuse, they may still be costing your company significant time and money. Employees who abuse substances may be late to work, miss works entirely, or leave early without completing the necessary tasks.

They may show up to work groggy, irritable, and unproductive, or they may be too hungover to do their jobs effectively. Employees who are struggling with it may be more likely to call in sick or take an extended amount of time off, which can have a significant negative impact on your business.

Workers who abuse substances often fail to achieve their full potential at work. Substance abuse can cause absenteeism. Workers who abuse substances may be less able to deal with the stress of work or cope with illness or injury.

As a result, they may take more time off from work for short-term illness or for longer-term treatment for it. Employees who use alcohol or drugs are more likely to use up sick leave for short-term illnesses.

They are also more likely to use up all of their sick leave and apply for long-term disability benefits. It also has other effects on workers that lead to reduced productivity. For example, workers who abuse substances may spend less time on the job, be less productive while at work, or fail to complete assignments.

Profitability Hazards

The profitability hazards related to substance abuse in the workplace are the most difficult to quantify. However, they can also be the most damaging to your company. Businesses with substance-abusing employees may have trouble securing and maintaining contracts with clients, partners, and vendors.

Customers can also be negatively impacted. Employees who have drug or alcohol addiction may be more likely to break the law, such as stealing from the company or breaking other company policies. They might also be more likely to break contractual obligations and miss important deadlines. Employees who abuse substances may be more likely to get into trouble with the law. They may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or other criminal offenses.

Neglecting the safety of employees and people who come into contact with the business can lead to liability claims, putting a financial strain on the business. Alcohol misuse can cause accidents or mistakes that result in a loss for the business. Examples include employees who are injured on the job, machines that are damaged, or customers who are injured by someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

How does workplace drug abuse affect a business?

The effects of workplace substance abuse can be wide-reaching and can place a significant burden on a company’s bottom line.

Higher turnover rates

When employees leave because of drug and alcohol abuse, the company has to spend time and money recruiting and training new employees.

Lower productivity

Employees who abuse substances may produce lower-quality work or perform below their full potential. This can lead to financial losses for the company.

Higher health care costs

When employees suffer injuries on the job due to substance abuse, the company may have to pay higher medical bills.

Strategies to help curb workplace Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Prevention is the best strategy to tackle drinking and drug use in the workplace; however, this can be a challenging task. The majority of businesses don’t have a specific policy or program in place to address substance abuse. With this in mind, there are still a few things you can do to help tackle this issue:

Substance Abuse - Support & Help
Substance Abuse – Support & Help

Develop a Substance Abuse Policy: Create a company-wide substance abuse policy that clearly outlines acceptable and unacceptable substance use.

Offer Education: Provide employees with information about the dangers of substance abuse and how to seek help if they need it.

Be Open and Honest: Be transparent about the types of substances your company screens for and what happens if employees test positive for illegal drugs in drug testing.

Set the example: If you are a manager or owner, you set the example for what is acceptable behavior in the workplace. If you show your employees that you do not tolerate the use of drugs or alcohol at work, you are less likely to have problems with substance abuse.

Hire people who are committed to success: Substance abuse can be a sign of other unhealthy behaviors, such as disorganization, lack of self-discipline, and lack of commitment to work or the business. These are not qualities that you want in your employees.

Develop an Employee Assistance Program: An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a carefully designed program that provides assistance and addiction treatment to employees and drug users’ families who are dealing with substance abuse issues.

Responding to Employees who are Abusing Substances

When you discover substance abuse problems, you need to take immediate action. Ignoring the problem or hoping that it goes away on its own may cause significant harm to your company. The first thing you need to do is make sure that the employee is receiving appropriate treatment.

You may also want to consider terminating their employment. No one deserves to have their job protected if they’re doing significant harm to your company.

There are a few things you can do to help make the termination process smoother:

  • Make sure you have the proper documentation.
  • Make sure you have a paper trail of the employee’s substance abuse.
  • Make sure you have the proper documentation
  • Make sure you have a paper trail of how the employee’s substance abuse is impacting their work.
  • Make sure you have a paper trail of all attempts to help the employee with their addiction.

Before you address the issue of substance abuse at the workplace, take the time to understand the scope of the problem. Make sure you understand the extent of the substance abuse problem in your company. You can start to get a picture of the extent of the problem by monitoring sick leave. Take a look at how much time employees are taking off from work due to substance abuse or related health issues. You will also want to consider the reasons for taking time off that fall outside of the realm of substance abuse, such as family emergencies or short-term illnesses.

You can also do an anonymous survey of your employees to find out what problems exist in your workplace. If substance abuse is having a negative impact on your business, you need to take action. Here are some steps that you can take: –

  • Get educated – The first step to dealing with a substance abuse problem is to understand what you are dealing with. Learn about the signs of substance abuse, the common types of drugs or alcohol being abused, and the potential consequences of substance abuse.

    Substance Abuse - Support & Help
    Substance Abuse – Support & Help
  • Identify the problem – Once you have a good idea of what you are dealing with, you can start working to identify the problem. Determine which employees are using substances and how their substance abuse is affecting their work performance.
  • Meet with employees – Meet with the employees who are abusing substances and their supervisors. This can be a challenging, emotional meeting, but it’s an important first step in addressing the problem.
  • Respond to the problem – Once you have met with employees, you can start taking the steps necessary to respond to the problem. This may include disciplining, substance abuse treatment or terminating employees who are not willing to stop abusing substances or who are unable to meet their job requirements.


Substance abuse can be a dangerous problem for any business to face. It can lead to reduced productivity and profitability, increased safety hazards, and a loss of credibility with clients and vendors. Employers must be proactive in order to prevent substance abuse at the workplace. It is important that supervisors be aware of the signs of substance abuse and know how to respond appropriately when it is discovered. If you suspect that your employees are abusing substances, you need to take action immediately. Early intervention is essential and can make all the difference in helping your employees recover.


To aid both employees and employers in better understanding and appreciating the implications in the workplace, we have an Alcohol and Drugs Awareness Course.

This awareness course provides learners with an awareness of what alcohol and other drugs are, the health effects caused, the psychology pertaining to use, the impact of the use on the workplace, and how to create a safe workplace.

The course is broken down into 4 parts:

  • What alcohol and drugs are
  • Health effects associated with using alcohol and drugs
  • Maintaining and promoting a safe workplace that is free from alcohol and drugs
  • Health effects associated with using alcohol and drugs