Addressing Substance Misuse

What is substance misuse?

Substance misuse is the use of alcohol, prescription medication, or illegal drugs, in a way that negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of the user, or those surrounding them.

Why is it important to address substance misuse?

Impact on self

Misuse of substances can directly result in significant physical and mental health issues for the user.

In addition, many misused substances impair judgement and increase risk taking, which means that the user also faces the possibility of indirect harm from the consequences of their actions.

Conversely, it should be recognised that substance misuse can also be a consequence of attempting to self-medicate existing issues relating to mental health or long-term sickness and disability. Consequently, a more holistic approach may be needed when attempting to address such situations.

Impact on others

Having an employee who is unreliable and not properly focussed on their work as a consequence of substance misuse puts a greater strain on colleagues, which ultimately can affect their own wellbeing.

Furthermore, in safety-critical industries it can also result in an increased exposure for the workforce as a whole to the risk of physical injury.

Impact on business

Substance misuse can have direct impact on the business through excessive absence or poor performance, with these often being the first visible signs of the problem.

It can also undermine trust and morale across the workforce, not only through the impact on those colleagues having to provide cover, but also through exposing both the business and individuals to additional risks such as fraud or theft.

Importantly, substance misuse can impact a company’s legal obligations relating to health and safety, and their duty of care to both the individual concerned, and their colleagues.

In addition to direct liability, companies can also be determined to be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees, which is significant if they are engaging in high-risk behaviours as a consequence of their substance misuse. This is particularly relevant where substance misuse is actively encouraged by a problematic company culture, such as one that revolves around heavy drinking.

Risk management

In addition to directly benefiting employees, the provision of such support offers an excellent return-on-investment (ROI) in terms of mitigating against a number of significant business risks:

How can we help you to address substance misuse?

We can help you implement HR policies and procedures relating to drugs and alcohol, so that employees are completely clear what is acceptable and what is not. We can also work with you on longer term projects that reform your company culture to inherently discourage such undesirable behaviours.

For more immediate issues, we can advise on routine or ad-hoc workplace drug and alcohol testing, as well as arrange support for any employees who do need assistance with substance misuse problems. We work closely with a number of trusted occupational health services, so just let us know what help you need and we’ll put you in touch with the most appropriate specialist.

We can also help you set up employee assistance programmes (EAP) that provide direct employee access to confidential third-party support.

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