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Tue, Oct. 15

Preventing substance abuse in the workplace

If you are a manager or a business owner, you know that substance abuse can impact your employees' productivity and therefore, your bottom line. People with drug and alcohol problems are not likely to leave those problems behind when they come to work. So, what does addiction actually mean to the employers in our country? Here are a few facts from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

• About three fourths of those 18 and older who use illegal drugs also work.

• Nonmedical use of prescription drugs is a national problem. According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, seven million Americans were current users of psychotherapeutic drugs taken nonmedically. SAMHSA's Drug Abuse Warning Network reported that of the nearly two million drug-related emergency department visits in 2004, over 25 percent were related to nonmedical use of prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.

• Most binge drinkers and heavy alcohol users are employed. Of adult binge drinkers, 79.4 percent are employed either full or part-time. Of adult heavy drinkers, 79.2 percent are employed.

• Workers in construction and mining, wholesale, and retail industries are 25 percent to 45 percent more likely to have a serious alcohol problem than the average U.S. Worker (Source: George Washington University Medical Center).

• The addictions of co-workers' family members also may affect the workplace. In a national survey of employees, more than one third said that at least one of their co-workers had been distracted, less productive or absent from work because of alcohol or other drug addiction in their family. (Source: Hazelden).

So, what can your business do to decrease the impact of substance abuse? Implementing a drug-free workplace program is a first step. In a drug-free workplace, all employees adhere to a program of policies and activities designed to provide a safe workplace. The policies and activities discourage alcohol and drug abuse, but they also should encourage treatment, recovery and the return to work of those employees who have abuse problems. A successful drug-free workplace program may include a written policy, employee education, supervisor training, access to assistance, and drug testing.

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