The Impact of Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Workplace

The Impact of Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Workplace

Drug and alcohol addiction affect every aspect of life for people who suffer from substance use disorder. Addiction has the capacity to destroy family relationships and friendships, to cause financial ruin, and to create emotional turmoil. The workplace is no different; in fact, drug and alcohol addiction can often be the most easily identified when it begins to impact someone’s daily routine, such as their work performance. By looking at changes in behavior at work, it can be easier for employers to identify when employees need help, and for individuals who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction to admit that they need it.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Talking about drug and alcohol addiction can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. This disease comes with a stigma and is often viewed as a moral failing or a series of poor choices. However, it is, in fact, a disease. According to the American Medical Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the majority of medical associations and experts, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease of the brain and behavior.

When someone has substance use disorder (the official term for addiction), their brain operates differently than the brain of someone without addiction. This is the result of changes in brain chemistry (neurotransmitters) that cause symptoms like obsession, compulsive addictive use of drugs, drug-seeking behavior, physical withdrawal, and mood imbalances. Because drug and alcohol addiction affect the brain so significantly, this disease often impacts sufferer’s lives outside of the home, including in the workplace. Despite the fact that drug and alcohol addiction is a disorder in the same way that other physical and mental illnesses are, it can be difficult to talk about due to the stigma. For that reason, it’s especially hard to address in the workplace, where professionalism is important and medical privacy is protected by law. However, drug and alcohol addiction certainly do impact work life, and there are many legal protections for employees who need to get help for substance use disorder.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction in the Workplace

If substances are affecting your work performance and ability to take care of basic responsibilities, that can be an indication that you are suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. By taking a look at how substances affect your work, you may be able to identify an issue. Some of the warning signs of drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace include:

  • Feeling too sick or tired to go to work when you don’t have access to substances
  • Needing to drink or use drugs before work or during work hours to make it through the day
  • Significant drop in work performance as the result of drinking too much or using drugs
  • Excessive absences or tardiness as the result of drug and alcohol use, such as often being late due to hangovers
  • Erratic or bizarre behavior at work

When drugs and alcohol begin to affect work performance, it’s usually an indication of a problem. If left untreated, substance use disorder can ultimately destroy not only one’s career, but their emotional state, relationships, and sense of self.

Dealing with Drug and Alcohol Addiction

For employers, noticing that an employee may be suffering due to drug and alcohol addiction can bring up some tough questions. In the United States, people are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which basically says that employers (and others) can’t discriminate against individuals due to any physical or mental disability. This includes drug and alcohol addiction. It’s not legal to fire someone based on a diagnosis of substance use disorder, and it’s not okay to ask employees about personal medical information. However, many workplaces have employee assistance programs, or EAPs, which may cover the cost of treatment or assist employees in getting treatment for illnesses, including drug and alcohol addiction. If an employee expresses the need for help, human resources may be able to direct them to a program that can provide treatment.

While individuals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, on the other hand, employers don’t have to tolerate illegal drug use in the workplace or drinking on the job. Depending on local and state laws as well as company policy, it may be legal to ask an employee to undergo drug testing. Ultimately, dealing with drug and alcohol addiction is not the responsibility or realm of the employer, but it is ok to protect your business and other employees from potentially dangerous behavior at work. As an employer, dealing with drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace can be difficult to navigate, but many companies have policies and procedures in place for handling these types of situations.
If you have noticed that your drug and alcohol use is affecting your work and other areas of your life, treatment may be your best option. Wellness Retreat Recovery can help. For assistance with getting care for substance use disorder or for information about employee assistance coverage for addiction treatment, call us today at 888-821-0238.