The far-reaching effect of substance abuse on the workforce

The far-reaching effects of substance abuse on the workplaceSubstance abuse often talked about as an issue that should not be a crime because it only affects the individual. There is no greater lie! Substance abuse has a far-reaching effect on the workforce and our economy and we don’t talk about it.

Today I am going to talk about it because I know too many families torn apart by addiction and alcoholism. We can’t continue to be quiet and pretend it doesn’t impact most people.

What is meant by Substance Abuse?

The term substance abuse covers alcohol and all drugs, which includes marijuana, the supposedly innocent drug. Victim-less crime. For someone who has addiction tendencies, there is no innocent drug or victim-less crime.

Pot opens the door to more substances. People scoff at the term “gateway drug” because they assume it is something made up by authorities to scare others. For someone attracted to the high or the escape from reality, it opens the door to more when it doesn’t work the way it did at first.

Addiction is insidious and it progresses differently with different people but once it takes hold, it is very difficult to end.

How does substance abuse effect the workforce?

Though the common thought might be that most drug addicts don’t work, the reality is that our workforce is filled with them. They stay in  positions, sometimes for a lifetime if they can manage the addiction but often times, it takes hold to the point that the employer has no choice but to terminate them. Some of the ways that addiction and substance abuse affects the workforce are:

  • Tardiness: the difficulty of getting to work on time or even waking up becomes more difficult when you abuse substances.
  • Missing work: even with the best of intentions, the addict is likely to miss work. Sometimes they just don’t care and continue to miss until they are fired.
  • Poor performance: A clear head is always the best way to approach work but if you are drinking or doing drugs, your performance will be affected.
  • Anger: Both from the substance abuse and his coworkers who are forced to pick up the pieces when the addict doesn’t perform. The addict is often angry in general and blames everyone else for his problems.
  • Workplace accidents: depending on the work environment, it is a hazard for someone who goes to work impaired or uses pills to wake up or stay awake.

Who does substance abuse impact?

In short, Everyone.

Until their family reaches their breaking point, it first affects their family. It affects their parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, and aunts. The impact is different. For some, it is serious emotional turmoil, blaming themselves while trying to help but usually failing. For others, it creates anger and disappointment and eventually separation when nothing seems to make a difference. Families may try for years to economically support the addict until either they understand enabling or they have nothing left themselves.

The family members find it impacting their own work unless they become experts at blocking it out. Or they use work as a diversion from the turmoil that substance abuse brings. Economically, the impact of trying to pay rent, utilities, and/or food not to mention other fees to help the addict can destroy a family or even drive them to bankruptcy. It often takes a long time to understand enabling.

From a health standpoint, the family is just as likely to suffer health problems because of the addict’s behavior. Depression, high blood pressure, and many more issues can be triggered by a family member with addiction issues.

What economic impact does substance abuse have on the public?

Too much to count. Taxes are impacted for increased crime and health care costs. There are long-reaching effects on the system that expand to homelessness and children of addicts. It affects our schools and every other part of society.

Drug abuse and alcoholism impact every community. Drugs that once were unheard of except in big cities are now rampant in tiny towns. Heroin deaths and dirty needles are everywhere, meth is so common that dental hygienists are trained to spot it in routine teeth cleaning. Prescription drugs are stolen and misused. What have we come to?

Through my years of working with job seekers, I find that many people have at least one family member who struggles or has struggled with addiction. I have heard the stories about mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, and uncles who are addicts and I have heard the pain and turmoil it causes. I don’t have a solution but perhaps if we acknowledge there is a problem and that it does impact society, we can find solutions.

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Julie Walraven, Design Resumes

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