- The pandemic has intensified substance use problems in the U.S.
- Substance abuse among employees not only affects their personal lives but also has severe consequences for the overall productivity, safety, and morale of the organization.
- 45% of tech leaders surveyed use pain relief drugs like Codeine, Vicodin, and other morphine derivatives. Additionally, concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) led to increased alcohol intake for 28%.
The workplace is a crucial environment that significantly influences an individual’s life.
Unfortunately, because of how much of their time an employee spends working, it can also be a place where substance abuse problems may arise or escalate. Substance abuse among employees not only affects their personal lives but also has severe consequences for the overall productivity, safety, and morale of the organization.
Being aware of the risks and signs of substance abuse is crucial now. The pandemic has intensified substance use problems in the U.S, with a new study illuminating the extent of alcohol and drug consumption among tech executives.
According to a survey conducted by All Points North and Censuswide, 48% of tech leaders are regular users of controlled substances, taking them daily or almost daily. The survey, which collected responses from 501 tech executives at the director level or above, found that approximately one-third (32%) admitted to using these substances as a means to enhance performance and manage the stress and long hours associated with their roles.
Stress related to job losses led 31% of respondents to increase their alcohol consumption, while concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) led to increased alcohol intake for 28%.
Beyond alcohol, the survey also revealed that 45% of tech leaders use pain relief drugs like Codeine, Vicodin, and other morphine derivatives. Additionally, 34% reported using stimulants, including amphetamines like Adderall.
Now more than ever, it’s essential for workplace leaders to understand how to spot and prevent substance abuse within their workforce.
Spotting Substance Abuse:
- Behavioral Changes: Employees struggling with substance abuse often exhibit significant changes in behavior. These may include frequent tardiness, unexplained absences, or a decline in productivity and performance. They may become more isolated, showing less interest in social interactions or team activities.
- Physical Signs: Noticeable physical signs may include bloodshot eyes, sudden weight loss or gain, tremors, slurred speech, or poor physical coordination. An employee may also show signs of fatigue, frequent health issues, or a general lack of personal hygiene.
- Emotional Instability: Substance abuse can lead to emotional instability. Look out for mood swings, irrational outbursts, increased anxiety, or depression.
- Problems with Relationships at Work: If an employee suddenly starts having conflicts with colleagues, superiors, or subordinates, this could be a red flag. Substance abuse can negatively impact an individual’s interpersonal skills and judgment.
Preventing Substance Abuse
The first step toward preventing substance abuse begins with company leadership and setting an example of healthy behaviors at all corporate functions.
“HR leaders can help instill an inclusive environment for employees by banning alcohol in the workplace, or offering more non-alcoholic options at outside events whenever alcohol is served,” said communications professional and certified recovery coach Celeste Yvonne. “More than just water and soda, mocktail options on a menu of drink offerings will not only make non-drinkers feel more welcome, it will encourage people to consider a non-alcoholic beverage who may not have considered it otherwise.”
Here’s how to prevent it:
- Implement a Clear Policy: Every organization should have a clear, written policy regarding substance abuse. This policy should outline the consequences of substance abuse, including potential disciplinary actions, while also emphasizing support mechanisms for those seeking help.
- Employee Education: Regular training sessions can help educate employees about the dangers of substance abuse. These sessions should cover the effects of drugs and alcohol on health, work performance, and personal life. They should also provide information on how to seek help if needed.
- Encourage a Healthy Work Environment: A stressful work environment can contribute to substance abuse. Employers should promote a healthy work-life balance, provide stress management resources, and encourage regular breaks and vacations. “For employees who may be struggling with substance abuse, HR leaders can support everyone by limiting alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks per person at work events, and encouraging meetups in spaces and doing activities that aren’t alcohol centric. HR can offer manager training on recognizing the signs of problem drinking in employees and steps to take, and supply managers with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s handbook: Alcoholism in the Workplace,” Yvonne told Allwork.Space.
- Provide Assistance Programs: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are another effective tool for preventing and addressing substance abuse. These programs offer confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees facing substance abuse issues. “Offering an employee resource group for non-drinkers can also be part of an HR’s DEI initiatives to help sober employees find a safe place to speak openly,” Yvonne suggested. “Especially in a workplace culture where drinking is often built into company events, offering a space for your sober employees to connect and invite a direct line of communication with HR about concerns or suggestions will help ensure future events or gatherings feel safe and welcoming to all.”
- Regular Screening: Depending on the nature of the job and local laws, regular drug screenings can be an effective deterrent. However, it’s important to ensure that these screenings are carried out in a respectful and legally compliant manner.
Substance abuse is a significant issue that can impact the health and productivity of your workforce. By being vigilant about spotting the signs and proactive in implementing preventive measures, you can help create a safer, healthier, and more productive work environment. Remember, the goal isn’t just to punish those struggling with substance abuse, but to provide support and resources to help them overcome their challenges.