June 20, 2022

International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

A Drug-Free World Starts with a Drug-Free Workplace

Many of our colleagues or us might have shown up to work at some point on a Monday morning with a hangover from the previous night’s party. I am sure you can remember how the day might have gone – a headache with decreased productivity, irritability, and not working at your full potential, waiting for the day to end so that you can go home and rest. Now imagine showing up to work in that state frequently, or even every working day. Drug abuse at the workplace can have similar, rather more detrimental consequences not just for the user but also for the team and the organization as a whole.

The American National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reported that 70% of people who abuse drugs in America are working professionals. $81 billion are lost every year by companies due to the issue of drug abuse in the workplace. According to a Research Report published by HSE, out of the total working respondents, 13% reported having used drugs in the workplace. These figures not just give us a picture of the issue of drug abuse at work in the USA or UK – This is a global issue and needs to be addressed by employers across the world.

Hence, we observe 26th June as International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in order to raise awareness among the community regarding this issue.

First, let us look into what do these terms exactly mean?

Drug Abuse – It is the misuse or excessive use of illegal drugs.

Illicit Trafficking – It is the illegal trade (buying and selling) of drugs or other illegal substances.

The Problem of Drug Abuse in the Workplace:

The problem of drug abuse in the workplace has detrimental consequences, some of which are listed below. These can also be seen as warning signs by employers and managers to identify this issue.

  1. High level of unexplained absenteeism
  2. Sudden drop in employee’s productivity
  3. Lower level of alertness and concentration – forgetfulness, leading to errors
  4. Increase in the number of accidents and near misses
  5. Behavioural changes
  6. Poor decision making
  7. Conduct issues – having troubles with colleagues and superiors
  8. Low team morale

Symptoms of Addiction:

Apart from the above warning signs, below are some symptoms that employers, managers, supervisors, and co-workers can look out for to identify the employees suffering from drug abuse and illicit trafficking:

  • Glassy or bloodshot eyes
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Sudden changes in daily routine
  • Stammering or slurred speech
  • Needle marks on the body
  • Paranoia about personal belongings
  • Exhaustion
  • Memory loss
  • Being sneaky – a group of employees meeting privately and frequently
  • Frequent contact with janitors and other employees who don’t actually work together

Generally, employers and managers look at drug abuse as a personal problem from the employees’ end. We look at the symptoms, and we look at the solutions like support programs. However, there is one aspect that the majority of employers fail to look at. Are there any workplace factors that may be contributing to this issue? Workplace factors are the organizational factors that may be listed below:

  • Blame culture
  • High work pressure
  • Low wages
  • Multiple responsibilities
  • Lack of job satisfaction
  • Long working hours and irregular shift patterns
  • Lone working
  • Lack of growth opportunities
  • Improper roles and responsibilities
  • Lack of resources to perform tasks
  • Peer group pressure
  • Setting unrealistic targets
  • Easy access to illegal drugs in the workplace
  • Lack of support and grievance redressal

How to Manage the Issue of Drug Abuse and Illicit Traffic in Organizations:

Now that we know the scale and contributing factors of this problem, let us look into how we can manage the issue of drug abuse and illicit traffic in organizations.

  1. Effective HSE policy against drug abuse and illicit trafficking at the workplace
  2. Counselling the employees at risk
  3. Policy for dealing with violations
  4. Screening or testing employees for the use of drugs or alcohol while at work
  5. Randomly check lockers or any other areas where illegal drugs may be stored
  6. Training and awareness programs to educate the employees about the health risks of drug abuse and the consequences of it in industries
  7. Ensuring that employees dealing with high-risk machinery and workplaces must be assessed effectively to ensure that they are not involved in drug abuse
  8. Changing job roles or temporarily shifting employees from high risks tasks if they are found to be going through this issue.
  9. Monitoring worker’s behaviour to identify such issues.
  10.  Incorporating a positive safety culture
  11.  Assigning tasks according to competency levels to avoid a blame culture
  12.  Appointment of a dedicated expert who can deal with substance abuse and illicit trafficking at the workplace.
By implementing the above control measures, we can protect our workplace and employees from the danger of drug abuse, thus avoiding not just health issues or industrial incidents but also protecting the organization from the legal and financial implications of this problem.

Article written by :

Veldhi Sai, HSE Trainer / Consultant, Green World Group – Dubai .

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