The fact that some people use substances such as alcohol or illicit drugs, or that some people misuse prescription drugs is not new. The awareness that the abuse of substances may affect the workplace just as the workplace may affect substance abuse is, however, increasing in acceptance.
Many aspects of the workplace today require alertness, and accurate and quick reflexes.
An impairment to these qualities can cause serious accidents, and interfere with the accuracy and efficiency of work. Other ways that substance abuse can cause problems at work include:
What will be covered in this document?
This document will discuss issues such as how substance abuse problems may affect the workplace, possible costs to a business, and how a business can address such issues.
In general, what are the effects of various types of substances?
|Category||Examples||Examples of General Effects|
|Alcohol||beer, wine, spirits||impaired judgement, slowed reflexes, impaired motor function, sleepiness or drowsiness, coma, overdose may be fatal|
|Cannabis||marijuana, hashish||distorted sense of time, impaired memory, impaired coordination|
|Depressants||sleeping medicines, sedatives, some tranquilizers||inattention, slowed reflexes, depression, impaired balance, drowsiness, coma, overdose may be fatal|
|Hallucinogens||LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), PCP (phencyclidine), mescaline||inattention, sensory illusions, hallucinations, disorientation, psychosis|
|Inhalants||hydrocarbons, solvents, gasoline||intoxication similar to alcohol, dizziness, headache|
|Nicotine||cigarettes, chewing tobacco, snuff||initial stimulant, later depressant effects|
|Opiates||morphine, heroin, codeine, some prescription pain medications||loss of interest, “nodding”, overdose may be fatal. If used by injection, the sharing of needles may spread Hepatitis B, or C and HIV/AIDS.|
|Stimulants||cocaine, amphetamines||elevated mood, overactivity, tension/anxiety, rapid heartbeat, constriction of blood vessels|
(Source: Blume, S.B., Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety 4th edition, International Labour Office, 1998)
What are the costs to a business?
The economic impacts of substance abuse in Canada to businesses or industry have been traditionally difficult to measure. Many costs are hidden by general absenteeism or illnesses, “unnoticed” lack of productivity, or inability or reluctance to link substance abuse directly with causes of accidents.
In general, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA), reports that substance abuse cost the Canadian economy more than $39.8 billion in 2002. This figure includes costs for tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs.
CCSA also states that the largest costs are for:
As such, costs to a business may be both direct and indirect. The impact of substance abuse that have been reported often focus on four major issues:
Additional costs can include:
Are there elements of work that may contribute to abuse of substances?
Various and numerous personal and social factors can play a major role. In general, however, some work-related factors can include:
What can the workplace do?
Work can be an important place to address substance abuse issues. Employers and employees can collaborate to design policies which outline what is an acceptable code of behaviour and what is not. By establishing or promoting programs such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), employers can help troubled employees more directly or provide referrals to community services.
Workplaces are encouraged to establish a procedure or policy so that help can be provided in a professional and consistent manner. It is important for supervisors and managers to have a resource or procedure that they can rely on if the need arises. Employees need to know that everyone will be treated the same way. Pre-planning, as for many other occupational health and safety issues, is the best way to avoid confusion and frustration in times that are already difficult.
In addition, managers and supervisors should be educated in how to recognize and deal with substance abuse issues and employees should be offered educational programs.
What elements should be in a substance abuse policy?
A company substance abuse policy should emphasize that the program is confidential and be jointly created by both labour and management.
Elements of the policy would include:
Contact Dynamique HR consultants to draft your substance abuse policy.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your HR consultant for specific and detailed advice.