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Substance Abuse in The Workplace - An Employee Health Epidemic

7 min read
Published on 28 October, 2021

In 2020, OTT giant, Netflix, captivated the realities of the struggle with substance abuse in the workplace. The docu-series “How to Fix a Drug Scandal” highlights the story of a chemist who was stealing illicit drugs from her workplace laboratory and consumed them for years. Although this tale about addiction and substance abuse shocked the system, we must understand that it is not a one-off incident.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), of all drug users in the US, 70% are employed and active in the workplace. The most commonly abused illegal drugs on a job site are marijuana and cocaine. It highlights a crude reality that employees are looking for darker ways to deal with their workplace stress and pressure.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), drug abuse and addiction cost employers $81 billion annually in the US alone. And the numbers keep on mounting every year! Although it can be particularly challenging in the workplace, employers need to identify and confront suspicions of drug abuse.

Commonly Used Drugs

The workplace can be a tough place for employees, especially while managing their work-life balance. The most important reason employees take drugs is their assumption that it will help them manage their work-related stress.


There are various sources from which employees try to intoxicate themselves. The most common ones are -

  • Alcohol (Wine, Spirits)
  • Cannabis (Marijuana, Hashish)
  • Depressants (Sedatives, Tranquilizers)
  • Opiates (Morphine, Heroin, Codeine)
  • Nicotine (Cigarettes, Chewing tobacco)
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, Cocaine, Amphetamines)

Why do Employees Use These Substances?

So what are the factors which push employees down this dark alley? Following are some of the most common reasons why employees look towards these banned substances.

1.Work-Related Stress

Work-related stress is the major contributing factor to employees adopting unhealthy practices. Employees sometimes feel overwhelmed by the pressure to meet deadlines and the responsibilities which come along.


So they feel taking an alien substance can help them feel a bit relaxed. Sometimes employees take such substances to enhance performances as well.

2.Mental Health Issue

Deplorable mental health , coupled with gruesome work conditions, negatively impacts millions of employees in the US every year.


Also because our world now has more or less a hustle culture, people across all professions hardly receive any support and inevitably face burnout and mental health fatigue.

As a result, many workers struggle to maintain their lifestyle and resort to drugs to escape from the realms of the modern world.

3.Job Isolation

We live in an era where the pandemic is not a theoretical concept anymore. And in this new reality, employees are learning to adapt to remote work. Now, this has its own set of benefits, but it also brings different types of challenges.


Remote workers are experiencing job isolation. They are finding it difficult to express their thoughts and are spending most of their time alone. This has led to a lot of employees taking up alcohol and drugs to escape boredom and loneliness.

Listen to our podcast: Remote Workplace stress and burnout

4.Recreational Reason

A lot of employees do drugs as a recreational activity. They feel it makes their life more fun when they are intoxicated. In current times, it is increasingly becoming a life choice under peer pressure and a fashion statement.


It is a very wrong approach to life, as an individual does not need drugs to experience the joys of life. A person should find happiness in their life from the smallest of the experiences like the compassion of loved ones or going out and being with nature.

5.Trauma in Personal Life

Sometimes employees are under severe stress from reasons associated with their personal life. It could be anything from the illness of a family member or a bad relationship status. Employees in such a scenario find it difficult to deal with such thoughts and focus on work.


They seek the help of drugs to numb their pain and maintain their work-life balance. But this pushes them even more, deeper into the hole. They get hooked to these substances and eventually collapse, making their and their loved ones’ life even more precarious.

Suggested read: 18 Lesser-Known Stress Relief Activities & Ideas for Office

Impact of Substance Abuse on Employees

A workplace is a demanding place that requires alertness and accuracy from the employees. Any lapses to these qualities will result in catastrophic incidents or risks to the smooth conduct of the business. Substance use disorders can make it impossible for employees to continue their work.

The ways in which substance abuse can impact Employee Wellbeing are-

1. Impacts the Judgement and Emotional Wellness

Drug consumption impacts the judgment, perception, and emotional wellness activities of the employees. When the work demands responsibility in sensitive decisions, such employees could be found out.

2. Job Performance is Affected

The after-effects of drug use like hangovers and withdrawals affect job performance. Such employees will be drained and tired, unable to make the right decisions on the job.

Suggested read: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Work Performance

3. Problems With Absenteeism and Punctuality

Those who consume drugs are more absent from their work, and the overall employee health is also affected in the long run. They also find it difficult to reach the office on time and meet the desired deadlines.

4. Getting Addicted to the Substance

Most drugs are addictive. So once employees consume these illicit substances, they are hooked on them, and they get desperate and addicted. After their body and mind crave these drugs, they lose focus on their responsibilities. It can cause law and order concerns for the employee as well as the organization.

5. Work Environment is Compromised

Having employees in the workplace who are dependent on illicit substances creates a negative work environment. Such employees are a liability to the organization. Co-workers can have a bad influence having low morale, and are prone to exposure to such drugs.

Suggested read: 7 Ways To Foster A Healthy Work Environment To Improve Employee Health

How to Screen Employees for Drug Use

As an employer, it is important to have a zero-tolerance attitude towards workplace drug use by their employees. Firstly, start with having a well-defined employee health policy. Set out proper guidelines regarding the subject and warn employees of the strict consequences of not adhering to them.

An effective drug program for the workplace usually includes a list of standard procedures. These are-

1.Testing Employees

There are many standard alcohol and drug testing methods available. Some of them are urine tests, blood tests, and breath tests. Drug tests are done in the presence of a medical officer or doctor, and samples are taken to a certified laboratory, where the check takes place.

2.Train Your Employees Against Drug Abuse

Educate your employees regarding the realities and signs of addiction. Motivate them to support a drug-free workplace.

As an employer, you can organize some seminars and ask top physicians to come and put some light on the dangers of drugs. This can go a long way to make a change in the mindset of employees regarding drug use.

3.Provide Support and Opportunities for Rehab

Support your employees to be vocal about their alcohol and drug abuse. Provide the support of counseling and make them go through rehabilitation programs for addiction treatment. Once the employees are deemed fit by the prescribed doctors, welcome them to work.

How Does Vantagefit Help in Detoxing

Vantage Fit is a comprehensive corporate wellness platform dedicated to transforming workplace wellness. It is an engaging platform that helps its users to track their wellness activities smoothly. Users can create a customized profile, and based on the completion of specific fitness tasks; they get rewards that employees can redeem later.


In this pandemic period, Vantagefit has contributed immensely to providing uncompromising wellness services to the employees. Several weekly health challenges like steps challenge, 7 mins workout, etc., can motivate employees to give up on their unhealthy health practices and redefine their health.

Vantagefit provides opportunities for mindfulness exercises and yoga. This way, employees feel more ready to deal with their mental health. It provides employees with a platform of opportunity to detox their bodies and soul. It helps employees to face up their mental health concerns and deal with them efficiently.

The platform has received wholesome appreciation from the market, and Vantage Circle strives to help employees enjoy their physical and mental wellness journey continuously.

Concluding Thoughts

Substance abuse by employees brings expensive problems for businesses. Every year employers face a tough time dealing with lost productivity, absenteeism, and the increased liability on health insurance, related to drug usage by their employees.

To handle this growing epidemic better, an organization needs to have a well-defined treatment program. Encourage your workforce to give up on unhealthy practices and take their health care seriously. Implementing a drug-free policy will promote a healthy workforce and improve the healthcare CSR portfolio of the organization.

Lastly, a drug-free workplace can promote safer and healthier communities.

This article is written by Nizamul Bhuyan, a Content Marketer at Vantage Circle. With a professional exprience of writing on various subject domains like Corporate Wellness and Sports, he prefers to watch football and explore new places to unwind. To get in touch, reach out to

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