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Substance abuse a growing problem in the workplace

Nov. 07, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Drug and alcohol abuse take a tremendous toll on everyone, from tragic family situations to property crimes on almost every street.

So, it is not surprising that drug and alcohol problems are a growing concern in the workplace.

Surveys estimate that 60-70 percent of the 20 million Americans with a substance abuse problem also have a job. That translates into about 5 to 8 percent of the workforce.

For employers that can mean lower productivity, more accidents, absenteeism and increased liability. Many employers require job candidates to pass a drug test before they are hired, but experts say businesses may want to do more than that.

Last week, local business leaders took a look at the issue during a workshop hosted by the Huntington Area Development Council, the Prestera Center, Huddleston Bolen law firm and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The message to employers was be prepared and have a plan.

That begins with clear drug-free workplace policies in writing that outline the expectations and consequences of violations.

Many companies also provide education programs on the dangers of drug use and training for supervisors to help them identify problems. Insurers or third-party employee assistance programs also can help with evaluating problem workers and treatment.

By drawing a clear line on drug and alcohol abuse, businesses not only help protect themselves and their employees, but also provide motivation for troubled workers to seek help and treatment.

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