Small Business: Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Substance Abuse Policies

How many of your employees are drunk or on drugs today? Regardless of size or location, no business is immune to the myriad problems that come with alcohol and drug abuse. When individuals who abuse alcohol and other drugs arrive for work, your bottomline suffers. Fortunately, there are things you can do to mitigate the damage.

Think substance abuse isn't a problem in your company? Think again! It's been estimated that 70% of the nation's illegal drug users are employed on either a full- or part-time basis.

Drug Screening

Even more, it's estimated that one in twelve employees currently uses illegal drugs on a regular basis.

Left unchecked, substance abuse can have a devastating affect on your small business. In general, substance abusers are more likely to call in sick, cause workplace injuries, and commit fraud than their drug-free counterparts. Like it or not, substance abuse costs your company money.

That's why it's important to establish and enforce a substance abuse prevention program in your workplace ASAP.

Written Policy

A clearly-worded written policy describing your company's stand on substance abuse is essential. Although every policy is different, yours should unambiguously declare that substance abuse is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Some of the other topics your policy needs to address include:

  • Possession or use of substances in the workplace
  • Reporting procedures
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Drug-screening

Supervisor Training

Substance abusers can be very skilled at concealing their problem from friends, family, and coworkers. Take time to train yourself and your supervisors about substance abuse so it can be spotted when it occurs. Fortunately there are a multitude of resources available to bring you up to speed. The US Department of Health and Human Services offers a range of drug-free workplace programs that will help you get started. Visit their website at

Staff Training

It's also important to train your employees about substance abuse so they are better equipped to spot problems in themselves and their coworkers. Because substance abuse problems are so prevalent in our society, most communities have organizations committed to educating the public about drug and alcohol issues. These organizations are usually willing to give presentations about substance abuse to businesses at little or no cost.

Drug Screening

Drug testing has become commonplace in corporations, but most small businesses rarely take advantage of it as a detection tool. Drug-screening for new employees is a good idea. But you should also consider establishing policies and procedures for screening employees who you suspect are abusing drugs as well as periodically screening employees whose job requires them to operate vehicles or heavy equipment.

Employee Assistance Programs

Many employers find it helpful to offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to employees who are struggling with substance abuse. EAPs are a compassionate, solution-focused way to help your people deal with their problems head-on. Although you EAP can be customized to reflect your company's needs, most EAPs include services such as counseling, treatment programs, and a process to reintegrate the employee back into the workplace. The cost for these services is more than recovered through the added productivity of a clean and sober staff of employees.

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