The misuse and abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription medications affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Almost 20 million adults suffer from substance use disorders (SUDs) each year. In Canada, this figure is six million, or 21 percent of the population. Further, over 100,000 drug overdose deaths occur in the U.S. annually, with over 75,000 of those from opioids. Around 7,000 opioid overdose deaths occur in Canada annually.
Misusing and abusing drugs or alcohol can lead to a variety of adverse health outcomes and other serious problems. These can range from interpersonal problems such as strained relationships with coworkers and family members to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, liver disease and certain cancers. In addition, substance misuse and abuse can contribute to poor mental health, learning and memory problems. Substance misuse is also associated with higher rates of absenteeism, presenteeism and accidents on the job.
LIUNA’s signatory employers expect workers to be “fit for duty.” That includes being free of drugs and alcohol and their side effects. Drug-free workplace programs, which can include drug testing and employee and supervisor education, can help employers keep jobsites safe. When a substance use problem does arise, an employer might be the first to recognize it and has the opportunity to intervene on the employee’s behalf. Employers and supervisors should learn to identify the warning signs of SUD and how to responsibly address the problem, which can include one-on-one consultation and referral to available resources like an Employee Assistance Program.