In modern-day America drug abuse is more widespread, and reaches into more sections of society than ever before. It is now possible for almost any type of illegal drug to be purchased on the black market, and the manner in which these drugs manifest differs from person to person. In short, it is not always possible to tell who is a drug user and who isn't.
It's a common misconception to assume that all drug users are unemployed vagrants involved in petty crime, with a tendency to hang around with undesirables of a similar nature. In reality many drug users are in well paid jobs, go home to families who enjoy annual vacations, and appear as normal as the next person.
Take a look around your workplace and consider the possibility that one, or several of your colleagues, may have a drug problem, yet be entirely unaware of it.
It's because of this reality that many companies have introduced drug policies designed to tackle the problem of drug abuse. It's not a combative measure in an aggressive sense, but rather an appreciation of the fact that drug abuse is an area of health and social concern, and should an employee develop a problem with drugs, the ultimate effect will be a negative one on the company as a whole, and not just the individual.
Drug policies usually become active in one of three ways:
- An employee is unfit for work because he is under the influence of drugs.
- An employee has admitted a dependency on drugs, and is seeking help.
- The company has evidence of the sale, supply or use of drugs at work.
Drug policies generally apply to all employees, contractors and agency temps who are employed by a company, and while within the working environment. The term "working environment" can vary
from company to company, but in general it will include during working hours, stand-by time, lunch or rest breaks, and while on company or customer premises, corporate or hospitality events, or team events out, even if not paid for by the company.
Drug policies normally cover the abuse of cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, amphetamines, heroin, prescribed drugs, over the counter medication, alcohol and every day items like glue, lighter fluid and solvents.
In the first instance, a dependency should be treated as a medical problem rather than a disciplinary matter, but if a person has a problem with drugs, most policies will encourage the individual concerned to discuss the matter, in confidence, with his manager or human resources department, so long as this is practical and within the boundaries of the law.
A good drug policy will help the individual deal with the problem through referral to a rehabilitation program, designed to support the person while undergoing treatment. This may be an external organization, but could be internal and is dependent upon the person's cooperation.
If, because of drug abuse, a person is unable to continue in his current role, a good drugs policy will also help that person find another role within the company to allow them to continue safe employment while treatment is ongoing.
Drug abuse in most cases will, however, be regarded as a disciplinary matter, such as where the employee:
- presents a significant risk to the business, himself, other staff or customers
- is involved in supplying or selling drugs within the work environment
- operates machinery or drives a company vehicle on company business
- has consumed drugs in the workplace
- refuses to accept there is a problem of dependency
- refuses or fails to respond to support or rehabilitation
- has not responded to previous treatment for dependency
- has previously been involved in disciplinary matters stemming from drug abuse
- has allowed drug abuse to lower their behavior to an unacceptable level
- persistently uses or sells drugs in the workplace
- or where he is deemed unfit to work because of his addiction.
More companies across the country are introducing random drug tests in their contracts of employment, as well as at the interview stage. Not only does drug testing protect companies from potential embarrassment or legal hassle, it also acts as an indicator of employees who may need their help.