Substance abuse in the workplace is more prevalent than you might think. A recent study revealed that twenty percent of employees take, inject, or smoke illegal substances. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that 70 percent of an estimated 14.8 million U.S. individuals who use illegal drugs are employed. Drug abuse in the workplace costs employers almost $81 billion dollars a year. 

It’s easy for employers to see why drug testing their employees is so important, but it’s not always clear what should be done with employees who are found to be using drugs. Before beginning to test, employers should be sure their company has clear drug-testing procedures and policies in place. These procedures should include what types of test are to be used, how frequently they will be given and the consequences for a positive test result. They should also be reviewed by an attorney.

When an employee tests positive employers may face a difficult and uncomfortable situation. Often employees are hesitant to admit they’ve taken drugs at all, and it is the employer’s job to uncover the truth. The way to do this is to retest the employee. For follow-up tests, employers should be sure to use a qualified lab and have results confirmed by a medical review officer (MRO.) 

If the retest confirms an employee is in fact using drugs, he or she should be removed from the workplace. However, before terminating the employee employers might consider giving them the opportunity to participate in an employee assistance program or counseling. Termination isn’t always the answer when an employee tests positive for drugs, and some states even prohibit immediate termination. Of course, if the employee refuses to participate in treatment, termination may be the best option. When the employee completes the assistance program and returns to work, employers should consider a probation period. Removing certain privileges and responsibilities will help put the focus on continued recovery. At the same time, employers should be sure to reinforce the fact that the company cares for its employees and supports them in their recovery. 

Remember, the most important thing to focus on is the health and safety of employees.  That’s the reason we drug test in the first place.

Sources: “A Favorite Employee Tests Positive for Drugs. Now What?” Entrepreneur. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.                                                                                                                                                                 “Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace.” Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.     “Over a Third of Employees Know or Suspect Their Colleagues Have a Drug Problem.” Press Release Service. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.