As Someone Who Doesn’t Drink, Smoke, or do Drugs, am I in the Minority?

Substance abuse has proliferated in recent years, as the numbers of alcohol, tobacco, and drug users continue to rise. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA) conducted a survey that showed over 15 percent of high school kids abuse some sort of addictive substance daily, whether it be alcohol, tobacco, or an illicit street drug. The problem has exacerbated to the point that many have grown to feel like a minority because they do not smoke, drink, or do drugs. We tend to think of peer pressure as exclusively affecting teenagers in school, but peer pressure from coworkers can influence our decisions in the adult workplace. In an effort to contain the problem, businesses and employers in the Treasure Coast have been brainstorming ways to promote healthy, substance-independent habits.

Impact of Addictive Substances in the Workplace

Employees that do not smoke, drink, or do drugs tremendously ameliorate the workplace and establish a safe backbone for the working environment. When employees have to take a smoke break every 15 minutes, it hinders overall productivity of the employee. Secondhand smoke is as harmful as primary smoke, meaning that those who smoke in the workplace put themselves and everyone else around them in an unhealthy environment. Nicotine can actually cause moodiness, too, making for a stressful working environment.

Drugs and alcohol can also inhibit employees from living up to their full working potential. Drugs and alcohol affect consciousness and render the ability to clearly think inept. Substance abuse causes employee irritability, exhaustion, lateness, absenteeism, dishonesty, and theft. Those who do drugs or drink while working are prone to injury-causing accidents and even fatal accidents. This burdens businesses with undue liability and makes them susceptible to frivolous lawsuits. Those who are addicted to harmful substances also engender high turnover rates for job positions because they prove unreliable and uncommitted; substance-dependent employees get fired or quit more often than do substance-independent employees.

Statistics: Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Various institutions have collected volumes of data concerning substance abuse in the workplace. The reported numbers are alarming. Over 30 percent of employees have reported knowing a fellow coworker whose performance has suffered because of an addiction. The U.S. Department of Justice publicized an investigation that revealed nearly 10 percent of full-time workers, and over 12 percent of part-time workers, abuse illegal drugs. Abusing prescription drugs has woven into the fabrics of the workplace as the estimated number of abusers now exceeds 5 million, many of whom work everyday jobs. Little data has been collected on the number of smokers who work, but the number of smokers in the U.S. is nearly 50 million and a large portion of these smokers presumably work jobs.

Though it may seem like everyone around you either smokes, drinks, does drugs, or some combination of the three, the truth is that you are not alone if you are addiction-free. The majority of workers do not smoke or abuse drugs. Over 85 percent of Americans do not use illicit drugs and about 65 percent of Americans do not use nicotine. The majority of American adults do occasionally drink (over 60 percent), but these social drinkers are hardly under the influence of alcohol while on the job. If you do not drink at all, ever, then you may actually be part of a minority in that respect.

Business Approach to Controlling Substance Abuse

Businesses across the U.S. and in the Treasure Coast have taken measures to limit the use of harmful substances in the workplace. Most businesses have adopted strong drug testing policies as part of their terms of employment. These policies protect the company from prejudicial lawsuits and enable companies to randomly test employees for said substances. If an employee fails a substance test then, as is typically stated in the contract, the company reserves the right to dismiss that employee immediately.

Working in conjunction with different agencies, businesses can now add onto the consequences of a failed drug test. If injured on the job, medical bills may not be covered if the employee was under the influence of a substance. Failed tests may also forfeit an ex-employee’s rights to unemployment benefits. Finding health insurance may also be difficult for an individual who lost a job due to drugs or alcohol.

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