Substance abuse can be a difficult subject to address in any context. As an employer, addressing and navigating potential substance abuse by an employee is especially complicated. The employee’s job performance and well-being are high-priority issues, as are your company’s reputation, employee morale, and legal proceedings. 

All of these factors must be navigated with care when addressing employee substance abuse issues in the workplace. 

What Is Substance Abuse?

First, it is important to answer the question, “What is substance abuse, exactly?” It is defined as a pattern of compulsive use of illicit substances. The most common type of substance abuse in America is alcohol abuse. Addressing alcohol abuse can be particularly challenging because alcohol is not an illegal substance. Other common substances of abuse in America include opioids, narcotics, and stimulants, such as Adderall. 

When addressing this as an employer, it is important to remember that drug addiction is a disease. The individual may need help addressing a serious issue. At the same time, workplace addiction is a very serious issue that should be addressed head-on.

So how can you address substance abuse in the workplace? Here are a few basic steps all employers should follow.

Substance Abuse Evaluation: What to Do as an Employer

Gather Evidence

Falsely accusing an employee of abusing substances can create more problems, so it’s crucial to gather evidence as your first step. This means looking out for key signs of the abuse of substances. In the workplace, things to look out for include job attendance and performance, as well as specific incidents when applicable. 

If an employee disappears for periods of time without explanation or exhibits inconsistent or strange behavior, these may be signs of addiction or abusing substances. Understanding the specific signs of certain types of this can also help employers spot signs of workplace use.

As substance abuse and employment are serious issues with legal ramifications, it is important to be thorough. Simply relying on gossip, anecdotes, or speculation is insufficient when addressing potential workplace issues.

Refer to Legal and Employment Policies

Remember that employers are only allowed to prohibit the use and possession of substances while working or at the workplace. Most companies include language about workplace substance abuse in their company employment policy. 

However, these policies must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and any state laws on employment-related drug testing.

Offer Support

Offering support to individuals struggling with substance abuse is often a crucial step in helping them overcome their addiction. If an employee admits to a problem, their employee may have multiple support options available to them. One of the most common and often successful treatment options is to recommend visits with an addiction counselor. 

Many company health insurance policies will be able to cover the costs of these counselor sessions and other treatment options. This can help the employee address the issue head-on in a compassionate and constructive manner, providing a clearer path to recovery.

Drug Testing

Employment-related drug testing varies based on jurisdiction as well as job conditions. Some industries require regular drug testing, while others may not be allowed to require employee drug testing at all.

However, in cases of suspected or confirmed substance abuse, drug testing can be a necessary step. Drug testing can be used to confirm that an employee has been using drugs. Recovering drug addicts may also be required to take drug tests as part of their recovery plan.

Regardless of the circumstances, the accuracy of drug screening tests is absolutely critical. Soteria Screening is committed to providing businesses with precise and reliable drug screening for all substances. Read more about Soteria, our mission, and other insights on creating a happy, healthy, and drug-free work environment.

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