Alcohol and Drug Problems in the Workplace and What to do About It

At one time, in the not so distant past, it was considered reasonable and ok practice to hide someone's symptoms of addiction no matter how bad it got. Co-workers, managers, general employees, they all did it. The problem is that the problem never got dealt with and we realize now that it just gets worse over time. Hiding someone's addiction just hurts them, you and the company as a whole not to mention it is a very unsafe thing to do that puts you at risk of liability. The addict never gets to see the mess that they are making and in order to recover they have to see their mess. If someone can be treated ethically that may have a problem then why would you want to hide their symptoms?

Why employers and people in general let it go so long?

Company Culture


No procedure

Human rights

Union Pressures

Lack of Knowledge

Perceived Discomfort in Change

Think it is Easier to do Nothing

REASONABLE - The idea that your judgement is fair (not extreme) and that someone else with the same training would probably come to the same conclusion that you have come to. 

SUSPICION- There may be an issue or there may not be an issue.You have some reason to suspect that there may be an issue. Even if you are wrong you are right. Action is the result of a process. 

ENABLINGDoing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves. Think Bad Help instead of Good Help. Bad Help over the long term eventually makes things worse for everyone and could turn out to be dangerous. 


Selected Readings

Great Informative Article BC Construction

Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), June 2007

Having a Party? Great Tips to Lower Your Risks as a Host
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 2006

MADD Canada Publications - Your Party, Your Liability
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 2006

Problematic Substance Use in the Workplace [PDF]
College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia (CRNNS), 2006

Enjoying A Safe Holiday Office Party, Hicks Morley

The Canadian Model for construction projects in Alberta developed through the Construction Owners Association of Alberta

Construction Labour Relations or Alberta Rapid Site Access Program (voluntary random testing which waives site access testing requirements)

The Construction Industry of British Columbia Substance Abuse testing and Treatment Program Policy developed through Construction Labour Relations Association of BC and the Bargaining Council of BC Building Trades

The Alcohol and Drug Policies and Procedures developed through the Construction Opportunities Development Council of Saskatchewan 

Inability to Concentrate, Missed Deadlines, and Poor Attendance Most Common Ways in Which Family Members' Substance Abuse Affects Workers [PDF]
CESAR Fax, U.S., Volume 14, Issue 16, April 2005

A Guide for Managing the Return to Work (CHRC)

APOLNET - Workplace Alcohol Policies

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS)

Safework: Workplace Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Programmes, International Labour Organization (ILO)

Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF)
(Information of interest to businesses whose employees operate motor vehicles)

from Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Workplace