Drugs and alcohol in the workplace is a major issue many organizations face. Specifically, alcohol is even more prevalent in the workplace than drugs are. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reveals that, compared to illicit drug users, there are over three times as many binge or heavy drinkers employed. In fact, over 80 percent of problem drinkers are full-time employees.
Problems Alcoholism Causes in the Workplace
Problem drinkers instigate billions in productivity losses, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This figure takes into account impaired workplace and domestic productivity, as well as alcohol-related premature death and work time lost by victims of alcohol-related incidents and those incarcerated for alcohol-related crimes.
Alcohol abuse also leads to augmented hospital costs and workers’ compensation and disability claims, as well as higher job turnover. Alcohol problems do not only affect the drinker, but also other employees. One-fifth of workers have been injured by, have had to increase their workload, or have had to cover for a problem drinker.
Alcohol Screenings Versus Drug Tests
Despite the fact that alcohol appears to be a larger problem in the workplace, more companies administer drug rather than alcohol tests. Pre-employment drug tests are twice as common as pre-employment alcohol screenings. Fifty-four percent of companies administer drug tests to their current employees, compared to the 36 percent who test for alcohol. One reason for this disparity is that alcohol testing is more inconsistent and problematical. This is because alcohol is dispelled from the body much more quickly than illicit drugs.
However, alcohol screenings may prompt some employees to lessen their drinking or to obtain treatment. One alcohol screening instrument is the ten question Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT). This survey asks in-depth questions about frequency and quality of alcohol consumption, harmful consequences, and addictive symptoms. Screenings such as this one could be offered at company wellness programs and health fairs. Online resources may also supply other valid screening tests and provide recommendations and additional information about local treatment centers for those seeking assistance.
Employee Assistance Programs
In addition to alcohol screenings, another way employers can help those suffering from alcoholism is by utilizing Employee Assistance Programs. The majority of American organizations offer Employee Assistance Programs, which are meant to help workers who having personal problems that may be negatively impacting their job performance; originally EAP’s focused on alcoholism.
Alcoholism in the workplace is a serious problem for some organizations, and it is imperative that managers and supervisors find ways to deal with this issue.