America’s opioid crisis permeates every level of society—over 75 percent of all employers have been affected by opioids in the workplace, yet less than a third of these same employers feel adequately prepared to handle the issue. Workplace overdose fatalities for drugs and alcohol alike have been on the rise in recent years, especially in the labor and service industries, so employees and employers alike have a responsibility to keep their place of business drug-free via simple measures.

Best Practices for Employers

Zero-tolerance policies do little to reduce opioid usage and overdose in the workplace. Punitive action threatens substance abusers with the terror of discovery and loss of employment; rather than encourage them to seek treatment, workplaces with “hostile” approaches to drug usage push addicts to keep quiet. This stress and lack of treatment can compound an addict’s problems, contributing to co-occurring disorders and causing an increased incidence rate of overdose and sudden resignation.

Drug testing programs and consequences for drug users are important, but only as part of a more comprehensive workplace drug policy. Rather than alienate potential addicts, employers should focus on establishing a drug-free workplace with key changes to their approach:

  • The first thought of an employee when considering drug abuse in the workplace should be “this will endanger my health and employment; I should avoid this,” rather than “I’ll be fired if someone finds out.” Reinforcing healthy attitudes with employee education can help cultivate a workplace environment that encourages people to be better, rather than to hide their ailments. 
  • A written policy for drug abuse in the workplace should be clear, comprehensive, and should cite relevant laws and facts to explain the impact of drug use and the purpose of each policy. Although clear consequences should be defined, the language used in these policies should avoid criminalizing or accusatory tones. Including resources for employees to help them follow through (such as lists of Tennessee opioid addiction programs) is essential to ensure success.
  • Training supervisors to recognize and handle drug-related issues in the workplace functions alongside a custom Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide a systematic support system for employees. When working smoothly, EAPs offer employees fair, confidential ways to seek treatment and reintegrate into the workplace after recovery.
  • Drug testing should be the fail-safe for a successful drug-free workplace, rather than the core of your efforts. Successful drug testing implementation follows all federal regulations and employer requirements but aims to disincentivize drug usage rather than to “weed out” anyone who struggles with substance abuse.

How Employees Can Help Addicted Coworkers

Addressing Opioid Abuse in the Workplace

Regardless of your working environment, it’s important to be supportive of your fellow employees and keep an eye out for anyone who might be struggling with opioid abuse. Small pupils, frequent excuses or absences, lax work standards, poor hygiene, uncharacteristic mood swings, drowsiness and fatigue, and needle marks are all telltale symptoms of an opioid addict. If you see the signs, don’t ignore them. Report your concerns to a trusted supervisor or confront your coworker directly and recommend they seek out Long-Term Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Programs in Tennessee to get serious help; shorter programs minimally reduce the risk of relapse in opioid addicts, hence long-term treatment plans are best. If you’d like to know more about opioid addiction in the workplace or have concerns about a coworker, consult your company’s drug policy and contact us at 1-800-725-0922 to answer any other questions you have.


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