A workplace that has substance use problems isn’t just an unsafe space. It’s also an unhealthy and inefficient one. Drug and alcohol use in the workplace costs companies in the United States billions of dollars every year, often in the form of accidents. Employees who use drugs or alcohol are more likely to switch jobs frequently, miss work, be less productive, and get into accidents.

If you don’t think there is substance use in your workplace, think again. Three-fourths of people who have an alcohol or drug use disorder are employed, so it’s highly likely that someone struggles with addiction at your work. Small companies with less than twenty-five employees are twice as likely to have workers who use illegal drugs.

If you’re not sure how to detect drug or alcohol use in the workplace, you can start by looking for these signs:

  • fatigue
  • unexpected bursts of energy
  • paranoia
  • aggressive behavior
  • slow or slurred speech
  • frequent unexplained absences
  • smelling like alcohol or marijuana

Employers often have the most power to make changes in the workplace. If you’re an employer or supervisor who wants to create a drug free workplace, you can ask yourself some of the following questions.

  • What laws or regulations is a person violating if they use drugs or alcohol in the workplace?
  • Can you identify any current problems in the workplace that might be connected to substance use, such as accidents, absences, or sluggish productivity?
  • How can you support healthy lifestyle choices among employees who do not currently abuse substances?
  • Which of your employees are responsible for finances or documents that must be kept confidential?
  • Which of your employees handle heavy machinery or dangerous chemicals? What other safety concerns do you have?
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Active Steps for a Drug Free Office

Once you’ve completed an evaluation of the current risks and areas for growth, you should develop a specific plan for reducing the risks of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends the following steps.


Create a Written Policy – Workplace guidelines should outline laws and regulations about drug and alcohol use, but they should also include what the consequences are for violating these laws and other workplace policies about drug and alcohol use. Also consider adding information about community resources for substance use in the employee handbook.


Give Regular Trainings – Trainings should not only warn against the dangers of using drugs and alcohol in the workplace. They should also encourage healthy behaviors and ways of coping that do not include substance use. Consider how a wellness program can benefit all employees and connect them to workplace and community resources.


Consider Drug Testing – Drug testing can deter employees from taking risks and help identify what employees need help. When considering implementing drug testing, ask yourself who will be tested, what drugs will be tested for, and how the tests will be administered. Inform your employees of this policy, and treat everyone fairly and equally when it comes to drug testing.


Use an Employee Assistance Program – EAPs offer psychoeducation, counseling, and other wellness resources to employees. Enrolling with an employee assistance program provides an opportunity for employees to prevent and address substance issues. Research has shown that preventing substance use in the workplace is more cost-effective, and by demonstrating to employees that an organization prioritizes their physical and mental health, you increase the overall level of wellness at work.


If you’re not sure how to get started, consider how supervisors currently deal with issues of substance use at your organization. Talk to other organizations you respect about how they handle the problem, and ask them what local resources they recommend for addressing substance use. Also, don’t be afraid to get feedback from your own employees. Consider holding a meeting or taking anonymous feedback about the culture of your organization.

If you do suspect that a worker struggles with drugs or alcohol, accusing them will only make them defensive. Instead, talk to them about their work performance and how they behave with colleagues. Above all, treat all employees equally and fairly, and follow the policies you’ve set in place.

It might take a bit of work, but a drug free workplace is worth the effort. Your organization will experience higher morale and productivity, fewer unexpected costs, and less employee turnover. Employees will feel healthier and happier, and everyone will benefit. What steps can you take to create a drug free workplace today?

Last Updated: May 14, 2021