The Effects of Substance Abuse in the Workplace
Have you ever come into work high or hung over, or returned from your lunch break under the influence of drugs and alcohol? It’s likely frequent drinking or drug use will eventually affect your ability to do your job well.
Substance misuse among employees can have wide-ranging impacts on safety, productivity and morale. On-the-job substance use leads to poor decision-making skills, lost time due to frequent absenteeism and a higher risk of injuries and accidents. Read on to learn more about the effects of workplace substance abuse.
Negative Consequences of Substance Misuse at Work
The effects of using drugs and alcohol during the workday can adversely affect your employer’s bottom line, especially if your job responsibilities require you to make on-the-spot decisions or complete tasks accurately. If your judgment is impaired because you’re working while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the quality of your work will suffer.
Other unfavorable outcomes of being intoxicated at work include:
- Frequently being late or falling asleep on the job
- Unethical behavior, such as theft
- Poor decision-making abilities
- Memory loss
- Difficulty performing your responsibilities efficiently
- Inability to focus on the tasks at hand
- Regularly disregarding instructions or missing deadlines
- Unexplained absences from work
- Lying to colleagues to hide the extent of your substance use
Why Do People Engage in Workplace Substance Abuse?
Job-related anxiety may encourage some employees to begin using drugs and alcohol to “take the edge off” during a long, stressful day. Peer pressure from co-workers may be another reason people start abusing substances at work. Other justifications for on-the-job substance use might include the following.
- Being unhappy or unfulfilled at work
- Having to work long hours for inadequate pay
- Supervisors or other colleagues who are absent, unsupportive or abusive
- Getting bored with repetitive tasks or not having enough work to stay busy
Professions With the Highest Rates of Substance Abuse
Workplace substance abuse is a pervasive problem in the United States, but workers in some industries are more susceptible to developing a dependency or addiction on the job than others. These high-risk, often high-pressure professions include:
- Waitstaff and other hospitality workers
- Nurses, doctors and other health care professionals
- First responders and members of the military
- Artists and entertainers
- Lawyers and paralegals
- Construction workers and miners
How to Tell Your Employer You’re Going to Get Treatment
No matter how well you might think you have been hiding your workplace substance use, your supervisor and colleagues may already suspect you have an issue if your behavior has been erratic and the quality of your work has suffered. It’s best to be forthcoming and admit that you are enrolling in a treatment program. After all, if you tell everyone you are taking an extended vacation, and a fellow employee stumbles upon the fact that you’re in rehab, your dishonesty could cost you your job.
If possible, ask your boss to block off time on their calendar for a one-on-one, closed-door meeting, so you don’t have to rush through the discussion in the middle of a busy workday. Though you may feel anxious about having this difficult conversation, keep in mind that your manager will probably be relieved to know you have accepted you have a problem and are taking proactive steps to get your addiction under control. If your supervisor is the only co-worker you want to know about your decision to seek help, politely ask them to respect your need for privacy.
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