Substance Abuse in the Workplace: Impact, Assessment & Treatment

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Substance abuse in the workplace not only affects the individual employee, but can have deleterious effects on coworkers and customers alike. Read this lesson to learn more about the negative impact substance abuse has on the workplace and what businesses can do to remedy this growing concern.

Bringing Problems to Work

Frank is employed by one of the largest healthcare facilities in the region and takes great pride in doing his work. Celebrating ten years in his current role as an occupational health worker, he regularly meets with employees to ensure that the health and safety needs of all staff members are being met.

After receiving the results of a recent staff survey to identify health and safety needs, Frank learns that his fellow colleagues are concerned about the growing issue of drug and substance abuse, including:

  • Misuse of prescription pain medication
  • Use of cocaine, heroin, PCP and other illegal drugs

Noting this serious concern and how it affects the health and safety of all members of the workforce along with the patients they serve, Frank creates a formal plan on addressing substance abuse within the workplace.

Impact of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

In almost every industry, substance abuse can negatively impact not just workers, but their families, coworkers, and customers. This in turn affects the bottom line, or ability of companies and businesses to provide goods and services in a safe and effective manner. The more Frank researches substance abuse in the workplace, the more he finds it related to decreased productivity and inhibited focus in workers. These effects can lead to:

  • Inattentiveness
  • Miscommunication
  • Injury
  • Death

Applying the information to his workplace, Frank understands how easily a serious error could occur if a physician was under the influence of an illicit substance and miscommunicated a sensitive medication order or slipped while performing surgery.

Assessing the Issue

To assess the issue, Frank devises a plan to address substance abuse in his workplace that includes:

  • Creating a team to help monitor and evaluate program needs
  • Developing policy asserting that the healthcare facility is drug-free
  • Outlining steps for colleagues and managers to take when reporting suspected drug abuse in good faith, or sincere concern without fear of retaliation
  • Providing ongoing education to reduce the stigma or negative feelings regarding the need for treatment

Providing Treatment

Frank meets with the substance abuse workgroup and decides that their Employee Assistance Program (EAP), can be essential in connecting employees with appropriate treatment services. This means that employees can easily be referred to counseling and community resources, like support groups, to receive treatment.

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