“Just Say No” was the mantra of the war-on-drugs campaign championed by First Lady Nancy Reagan in the early 1980s. Fast forward 30+ years and one has to wonder whether this battle against drug use will ever end. Today, there is a much wider variety of “designer” drugs available than ever before and, as employers, we’re burying our heads in the sand if we think drug use doesn’t impact our businesses.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.(NCAAD) drug abuse costs employers an estimated $81 billion annually. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) further estimates that 75% of those who use illegal drugs or who are heavy alcohol users are currently employed. The likelihood of one of your employees either currently abusing drugs/alcohol or who are affected by a family member’s substance abuse problem is high.

Those who abuse drugs/alcohol are more likely to be absent from work; are more likely to be involved in a workplace accident; are more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim and are frequently less productive. Many employers have implemented Drug-Free Workplace Programs (DFWP) to help identify those who have substance abuse problems. These DFWPs can take the form of a simple policy that states the company is a Drug-Free Workplace up to a comprehensive policy that includes drug testing.

In Florida, employers who adopt a more comprehensive policy in compliance with the Florida statutes can receive a 5% discount on their workers’ compensation premiums. The broker or workers’ comp insurer can assist in helping a company establish a comprehensive program in order to receive the premium discount.

Recognizing the signs of substance abuse is important in managing a DFWP. Unfortunately, those signs don’t always present themselves in glassy eyes, the reek of alcohol, or the slurring of speech. Sometimes, it takes a little while to recognize the signs:


  • Lack of focus
  • Unexplained and frequent disappearances from the work area
  • Frequent absenteeism or tardiness
  • Lack of productivity
  • Carelessness
  • Disregard for safety; increased accidents
  • Poor personal appearance or hygiene
  • Avoidance of coworkers
  • Blaming others for shortcomings

Once the signs of substance abuse have been recognized, the company needs to decide what to do next. Sometimes, that is specified in a policy…that the individual will be asked to take a drug test. But for those policies that don’t include drug testing the employer will be challenged with coordinating a collection facility to conduct drug testing. In that circumstance, walk-in clinics such as Centra Care may be able to help.

Next, the employer has to decide what will happen if the drug or alcohol test comes back positive. Do they automatically terminate the individual or do they give him an opportunity to enter into a rehabilitation program and become sober? That’s a decision that will be based on a number of factors including whether or not the job the individual is performing is “safety sensitive” and a slip-up could cause serious harm to the individual or someone else. For example, if the individual is employed as a driver, it would not be prudent for an employer to continue his or her employment in that capacity if the individual tests positive for drugs or alchol.


Learn more about how your company can become a Drug-Free Workplace by downloading the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Drug-Free Workplace Toolkit at http://www.samhsa.gov/workplace.



Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here for currently scheduled programs: http://www.eafinc.org/online_store/training/HCCMO/training_programs.pdf.

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