The Use of Drugs by Employees in the Workplace

Alcohol and drug abuse at the workplace can be a serious matter. Their use can cause serious health problems and in addition, a person with alcohol and drugs can be a threat to themselves and those around them. Illegal drugs are not the only that leads to problems in the workplace(Gust & National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1991). Even prescription drugs and alcohol amongst other legal drugs can be misused. Nonetheless, many people live with conditions requiring them to take drugs to maintain a normal life and for them, it is impossible to survive without these drugs.  Socially, the use of alcohol and drugs might not directly affect a person’s working ability but the performance and productivity of someone who goes to work under influence of either is impaired and could jeopardize their lives or those of others. In this paper, I will analyze reasons as to why employees abuse drugs at places of work, effects, and consequences, workplace problems relating to drug abuse and probable countermeasures to curb workplace problems that are drug use and abuse related.

Drugs are not allowed at the workplace, except for medicinal use. Nonetheless, we hold that employers should respect the privacy of the workers not unless it affects their workability. Many social drinkers including those who drink for recreation on weekends are comparably equal performers and neither do they take much time sick because of it. In case a person’s health deteriorates, however, or one tries to work under the influence of drugs, then it becomes a serious issue (Harford, Parker, Grant, & Dawson, 1992). The matter has been raised for trade unions since many people resort to alcohol or drugs due to the stress of work or painkillers due to musculoskeletal problems got at the workplace.

Job stress, drugs being accessible, norms and cultures of workplace, stigmatization and social control are amongst the elements that lead to employee alcohol and drug abuse. The effects of these factors can be moderated majorly by workgroups. Concepts of stress also attribute to the significance of groups in relationship experiences of a person in their social network or by being exposed to stress inflicted by others (Staudenmeier, Denenberg, & Denenberg, 1993). This two non-official factors-relationships and being exposed to stress conjoins within the question of groups. In groups that lack cohesiveness, there tends to be a strong reaction to stress. Multilevel views are supported by other factors as an explanation for vulnerability to substance abuse by coworkers.

The need for satisfaction of mental and emotional stimulation of audio/visually is one other contributing reason for drug abuse. People’s attention is grasped or stimulated by what generally surrounds them. Audio and visual stimulants are the major stimulants in modern societies (ILO, 1986). For instance, the numerous types of video games, electronics such as computers, television are made specifically to stimulate our attention and desire for pleasure. The public is then becoming insensible due to over stimulating to sense, with the presence of the above items and many more to choose from. Employees are then overwhelmed by this kind of mental whetting which bores them and this, unfortunately, presences them with an alternative to drug use to be excited.

Studies have shown that uneventful and recurring tasks that have less satisfying outcomes can lead to an increase in use and abuse of drugs. Inept supervision and irregular hours are such other factors. Drug and substance abuse could form a work culture, as in the instance of sales professions where drinking is not allowed (DeLancey, Hannan, & Institute For a Drug-Free Workplace 10701 Parkridge Boulevard Suite 300 Reston VA 20191, 1994). This is because a decision to have three martinis at lunch could take the whole afternoon. Liberty, opportunity, and access can intensify a problem. Employees do not easily divulge their problems.

Regular use of drugs or use in large amounts that lead to dependence to stay normal is problematic. Dependence breeds addiction, which pegs life on obtaining and regularly taking drugs for maintenance of either stable physical or mental state. Drug-related problems come up as a result of individual, relation, or social factors or sometimes from special work happenings, or a combination of these factors (International Labour Office, World Health Organization, & Joint ILO/WHO Committee on the Health of Seafarers, 1993). Apart from dire consequences, these problems could have on health and well-being of employees; it could also result in poor performance in workplace.

A worker will be forced to preoccupy self with getting and using drugs at work due to addiction. This disrupts their focus and attention. Problems could pile over to such deeds as trafficking drugs at the workplace to other workers. Numerous individual and social challenges that contribute majorly to the dominance of drug abuse at the workplace are in existence. A number of conditions at workplaces pressurizes workers and does not satisfy including occurrences that segregate employees from the rest work social circles (Douglas, Feld, & Asquith, 1989). Additional causatives are tiresome extended working time that in form of irregular working periods and recurring duties that lead to fatigue. Abnormal supervision and long inactive periods that is uneventful and unadventurous which gives time to engage in illegal drugs. It is, therefore, a personal responsibility to stay safe at work.

There are many ways in which drug abuse could affect the workplace. Albeit many employees fail to give attention to alcohol and drug abuse, it is a prevalent problem which deters productivity, profits, losses, charges, jobs and could have serious impacts in the health of the country’s working population in unidentified ways. This, therefore, should be seen and treated as a problem both socially and in matters health (Kronson, 1991).  Right from the occasional weekend sprees, to tranquilizers intake in just a casual way, through the use of marijuana regularly, to the ways and habits of heavy drinking is what contributes drug abuse. Professionals in the Human Resource sector have shown their concern on this issue and its impacts on employers.

The plights of the drug abusers have extended to the human resource department. Drug use, especially at the workplace, makes it unsafe as it increases the risk of occurrence of accidents especially for those operating heavy machinery, productivity level is lowered due to truants in the job and less interest in the job, the health and insurance claims escalates and massive reduction of profits is experienced (Brief & Folger, 1992). This has added a responsibility to both consumers and its employees to avert or minimize the risks associated.

            Lately, cognizance that drug and alcohol abuse is such a serious matter has been embraced world over and by governments. The matter of drug misuse at workstations initially was bashed and given a cold shoulder and everyone was of the view that its treated as a non-issue since moral perspective of it was considered yet health side of it was dismissed. Alcoholism and drug abuse cannot be singled out and done away with from working environments (International Labour Organization & Management of alcohol- and drug-related issues in the workplace, 1996). A wider view and perspective of it as a serious organizational harm both to its employees and by large the organization, therefore, dragging local and universal competitions.

Nonetheless, alcohol and drug abuse and misuse can be regulated in work environments. With proper measures that seek to reduce or totally avert drug abuse and related effects in place, drug abuse could be regulated. Such measures include the adoption of better working or employment techniques such as the formation of effective work groups that help identify and sort work-related stress and problems. Organizations should embrace business practices and etiquettes that categorically condemn drug use or abuse in the working environment by all means (Harris & Fennell, 1988). Any person, behavior or object that seemingly espouse or facilitate the harmful drug use within the business environment should be condemned. This campaign should also include the employees or their surrogates. Employers should maintain the confidentiality of those who have come forward to confess being victims of drug abuse so as to avoid stigmatization and probable backslide into drug abuse.

An unequivocal policy on drugs should be embraced where the executive management in consultation with the workers and their representatives declare illegal or prohibit alcohol and drug consumption, possession or peddling within the business environment including canteens, restaurants, and cafeterias (Rohsenow, Smith, & Johnson, 1985). A certain limit of alcohol consumption should be restricted. The rule should cut across from the executive down to subordinate staff in the organization for clarity. A drug and alcohol-free norm and culture need to be incorporated into the organization to build a reputable organization and set a basis for future employees. In situations where alcohol cannot be totally avoided, non-alcoholic drinks and beverages should be made available to give an alternative to people working in the environments (Cook RF & Youngblood A, 1990). Sometimes, prescribed drug administration could lead to an impaired capability which merits the presence of medical physician’s notice on those using them. Federal and state laws on drugs should be enforced in the organization. No payments or wagers in form of alcohol should be accepted within the organization.

Alternative methods of overcoming drug abuse within the working environments are available. They include campaigns of drug abuse awareness spearheaded by the organization in partnership with workers, or the workers’ union. These awareness programs should elucidate the effects of alcohol and substance abuse both physically and psychologically. They should cover federal and state laws as well as the company policies on alcohol and drug abuse and their application. Commitment to confidentiality of personal information on alcohol and drug abuse should be stated. Messages on the effects, possible solutions and how to avoid and avert alcohol and substance abuse should be communicated (Cohen, 1987). The accessibility of assessment and referral opportunities, guidance and counseling and rehabilitation procedure and the process should be articulated.

It is vital for relevant supervisors, managers, and union representatives to be given training on the process of identification and support to those affected by drug and substance abuse. They should be advised on how to build motivation teams to help overcome the ordeal without stigmatization and isolation (Schneider, Colan, & Googins, 1991). Organizations should implement random and regular drug test apart from drug test administration during hiring.

As it is apparent from the above review that alcohol and drug abuse is a menace that is threatening the productivity of many companies due to its rampancy in the workplaces and amongst not only employees but sometimes also to the executive of the organization. All stakeholders and interested parties must all come together to look for probable ways to curb or reduce its effects. Drug and alcohol abuse can be directly linked to the performance of workers and therefore their productivity index. It has also threatened the social fabric since the effects are not only limited to the work environments but also to social lives generally. Fortunately, it is also possible to reduce, avert or curb this menace and deal with its effects.