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Employee drug education

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Employee drug education

Everyone benefits from education about alcohol and other drug abuse. Owners and top management, supervisors, and employees at all levels need to know about the problems associated with substance abuse and the benefits of a drug-free workplace program.

Educating your employees about alcohol and other drug abuse is important. It gives the program a high priority and says that everyone in the organization needs to be involved. It fosters a spirit of cooperation and helps to dispel myths about alcohol and other drug abuse. It acknowledges the impact of substance abuse on friends, family members, and coworkers. It encourages employees to buy into the program and reinforces the importance of addressing alcohol and other drug abuse in the workplace.

Setting the tone

Your employee education program will be more effective if it doesn't sound like a "from the top-down" mandate. How you communicate with employees and the tone you take will be crucial to the success of your program. A positive approach lets employees know the program is intended to improve the work environment for everyone. The message is supportive: "This is problem, and here's how we can solve it." "If you have a problem, we want to give you a chance to get help." A negative approach takes a more punitive, judgmental attitude. The message threatens and scares employees: "You'd better watch out or you might be in trouble. We have our eye on you." "One mistake and you're out of here."

Setting a positive tone doesn't mean you have to coddle alcohol or other drug abusers. Some employees may need counseling or drug treatment. Although the majority of your workforce probably do not have alcohol or other drug problems, most employees welcome an organization's efforts to help employees who do need it.

When and where

There is no one right way to educate your employees. You may want to start with a modest effort. Over time you may choose to add other elements to the program. Employee education can include the following elements:

  • A meeting with staff members or department heads to explain the organization's policy and the drug-free workplace program
  • Informational materials about the company's program and about alcohol and other drug abuse:
    • Pamphlets
    • Flyers
    • Paycheck stuffers
    • Home mailings
    • Free videos
  • Posters and signs reminding employees that yours is a drug-free workplace and that your worksite promotes healthy activities such as:
    • Smoking cessation
    • Regular exercise
    • Good eating habits

The most important point is to keep the focus of the program clear and consistent. Several small steps toward employee education throughout the year are better than one large meeting with no followup.

The minimum

When resources for employee education are limited, at a minimum you need to inform your employees about the company's drug-free workplace policy. A policy briefing should address the following:

  • The rationale for the policy:
    • What the law requires
    • Why the program is important to your organization
    • The cost of alcohol and other drug problems in the workplace
  • Details of the policy, including the consequences for violating it
  • Available help for employee problems, such as an employee assistance program (EAP), if applicable, or referral to other local resources

Basic information about alcohol and other drug abuse also reinforces your policy and communicates that you care about your employees' welfare. Extending the education to their family members can promote that concept, and can improve the chance that a troubled employee will be identified by a spouse or child. Providing basic information can be done through brief meetings, brochures and other written materials, videos, home mailings, and so on.

The content might include the following:

  • Hazards of alcohol and other drug abuse in the workplace (increased accidents, decreased productivity, etc.)
  • How to recognize a potential alcohol or other drug problem of coworkers, family members, or friends (what to do and what not to do)
  • The nature of alcohol or other drug abuse and some ways addiction can be treated
  • Available resources within the organization or in the community.
  • National, State, and local resource organizations also offer free informational materials.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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