Workplace drug testing is a fairly recent and controversial trend in North America. It began in the United States in 1970 as a means of bringing the drug era generation under control in the workplace. Drug testing is often part of determining a potential employee's eligibility for hire, or it may occur at any point after hire to check up on the employee. The process involves the employee submitting to either a urine test or a cheek swab test. Some employers are adamant about drug screens while others have no use for it. Whether or not an employer will implement drug testing depends heavily on the CEO's stance on drugs.
Drug testing was developed in the United States. During the Nixon era, the administration was cracking down heavily on recreational drug users. Drug testing became a component of the newly emerging war on drugs and spread throughout the nation, particularly into the blue collar work sector. Since this time, the opinions on drug testing across the nation have fluctuated with the administration holding office. Conservatives are largely in favor of drug testing remaining in place while liberals want to see it eradicated or at least reduced. Right now, company policies on drug testing in the United States are all over the map. Because the private sector is so individual, there are companies that enforce drug testing militantly and companies that refuse to incorporate drug testing policies.
In Canada, drug testing policies are less stringent. Canada took some policies from the United States' war on drugs, but it decidedly did not go as extremist with it. Canada has a long history of being more tolerant of recreational drugs than the United States, although that is changing with a number of states legalizing substances like recreational marijuana. However, Canada's drug testing policies are in flux and are making the news in places like the Athabasca oil sands. Oil companies in Fort McMurray, Alberta are fighting for harder drug testing policies because of the high rate of substance abuse problems in the area. The potential policy change created an outcry against the invasion of privacy that drug testing would inflict.
Sobriety in the workplace should be a given, but unfortunately there are people who come to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol, either because they are bad decision makers or because they have a legitimate problem. Drugs and alcohol in the workplace create disastrous situations for all employees, and it is very important to keep drugs and alcohol out and let sobriety into the workplace. There are several measures one can take to keep the workplace sober:
Keep an eye out for the presence of drugs and alcohol. You would be amazed how often these things go undetected. Any employee bringing drugs or alcohol into the workplace will not want to be caught and will be going out of their way to conceal what they brought with them. Detecting employees who are under the influence involves watching for poor coordination, listening for slurred words and keeping an eye out for erratic behavior.
It is very important that employees do not try to protect their substance abusing coworkers by keeping it a secret that they are under the influence at work. Their substance abuse could prove dangerous to themselves or to other employees, and the consequences can be disastrous if the problem is not eradicated upon discovery. If you discover drugs or alcohol at your workplace, or that a coworker is using on the job, tell your supervisor immediately. It could save lives.
It is important that communication about drugs and alcohol is very clear within the workplace. If you are a supervisor, make sure that your workplace promotes sobriety by including a policy about the strict absence of drugs and alcohol. To enforce this policy, signs and flyers in break rooms enhance the communication.
Lastly, every employer should make resources available to their employees guiding them to quality addiction and substance abuse treatment. Addiction and substance abuse strike every demographic without regard for gender, race, class or economics. Sometimes simply knowing where to turn for help can make all the difference to a person, especially when they want privacy. Always have somewhere to refer employees who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.
Drugs entering the workplace is a recipe for disaster. Bringing drugs into the workplace is unethical on many levels for the destruction and havoc that it wreaks. There are beneficial prescription drugs that contribute to the workplace by making employees more mentally sound and physically comfortable, but recreational drugs can do nothing but damage in a workplace. The idea of doing drugs at work may seem preposterous to some but sadly it happens more often than people realize. It is found in every level of professional work place as well, from blue collar positions to executive positions. When drugs are brought into the workplace, everybody suffers.
The productivity of the workplace is brought to a screeching halt by the presence of drugs. Drugs do a number of things to people, but making them productive is not one of them. Drugs that are depressant in nature, such as marijuana and opiates, are hallucinogens and downers. They slow a person's processing power down and put them into some level of a dream state. Obviously, work cannot be done in this state. Stimulants, such as meth and cocaine, are often incorrectly thought of as substances that make people more productive. After all, coffee is a stimulant. This belief is incorrect, however, as these drugs give a person too much adrenaline and cause bad decision making. Every type of recreational drug is bad for workplace productivity.
Recreational drugs also put people in danger in the workplace. The drug user and everyone around them are put into peril by the erratic and unpredictable nature of a person under the influence of drugs. Even those who claim to be functional drug users are less functional than they normally would be. Drugs make people less coordinated, less predictable, less stable and less able to make decisions. Even in a workplace that is void of manual labor, there are still plenty of ways that a person on drugs could injure themselves or those around them. Taking drugs in the workplace is never a good decision, but many people on drugs are struggling with addiction and substance abuse and simply need help. To learn more about addiction treatment for working professionals, contact a professional drug rehabilitation facility or an executive alcohol addiction treatment center as soon as possible.
Coworkers and supervisors play an important role in keeping the workplace free of substance abuse and addiction. Whether an employee is bringing their problem behavior to work or not, coworkers spend many hours in a week with us and have a valuable perspective on how we operate. Sometimes, a person can spot their coworker's problem behavior even before the coworker's family does simply because they are more removed and objective about the person and are able to see through their lies and denial. An important but seldom discussed role of every employee is to observe and assess the mental and physical health of their coworkers, including watching for signs of addiction and substance abuse.
When a person's addiction or substance abuse problems are extreme, it is not hard for their coworkers to observe their problem. In many instances, the problem will be serious enough that the individual will participate in their problem behavior within the workplace. This may include drinking, doing drugs, looking at porn, gambling online, gorging on food or compulsively flirting in the workplace. These behaviors would indicate the most extreme forms of addiction or substance abuse. Or, the person may show signs of engaging in these activities before work or planning to engage in them after work. If someone arrives at work smelling like alcohol or their appearance clearly indicates that they have recently been under the influence of a substance, this can be a very strong indication of a problem. Or, if they are antsy at work and express how eager they are to get to the bar or smoke a joint or do a line of cocaine, it is very likely that they are struggling.
An addiction or substance abuse problem that is less severe or that is just beginning can be harder to spot. People tend to be much more functional when their problem is not severe and are able to keep it concealed much better. Plus, when someone's addiction or substance abuse is mild or moderate rather than severe, they are not living their life around it as intensely as a severe addict or substance abuser. Signs may be more subtle, like unexplained absences from work, subtle comments about how time is spent or subtle signs of unhealthiness in their appearance or behavior.