Now is the time to make sure that your business has a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy and screening program in place. COVID-19, and the months of isolation and uncertainty, are causing a devastating rise in drug and alcohol use that will certainly impact the productivity and safety of our workforce.

Historically, we have seen substance use numbers spike during a crisis. Reports from medical and mental health professionals — who are seeing increased visits to emergency rooms and drug overdoses — indicate that the coronavirus pandemic is no different.

Conditions of COVID-19 – stress, isolation, financial hardship and less access to support systems – are having a major impact on our nation’s mental health. A 34 percent increase in the use of prescription anxiety drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan since February, is just one indicator that people are struggling.

The Numbers

Recent statistics suggest that an alarming number of people are also self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

According to the American Medical Association, at least 30 states are reporting increases in fatal opioid overdoses. A study by the Nielson Corp. shows that between March and June alcohol sales in the U.S. jumped 26 percent compared to a year ago. Those in recovery are particularly vulnerable, with one study referring to COVID-19 as a “national relapse trigger.”

A surge in drug and alcohol abuse could have long-term consequences for the sobriety of our workforce.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse is reporting an upswing in positive drug tests, with nearly 4,000 positive drug and alcohol tests recorded in June alone.

Those numbers have a direct impact on the safety and productivity of your workplace.

Your best defense?

Your best tool is a multi-system drug and alcohol program including a clear and fully transparent drug and alcohol policy. 

Instituting this type of program sets out expectations and processes for employees, provides steps for disciplinary actions related to substance abuse at work and supports those who need help – all while maintaining a safe environment.

Employers should put in place the following:

  • A clearly written and enforced drug policy.
  • A solid drug-screening program that ensures consistency.
  • Comprehensive training for supervisors who are responsible for implementing the drug policy.
  • Employee education about the drug policy.
  • An employee assistance program or resources to help employees find treatment options.

As soon as a new worker walks through the door, the business owner must make sure that they are introduced to the drug and alcohol policy. Also, review it with those coming back to work after being furloughed or working from home during the pandemic.

It is important for employees to understand that their company policy is enforced without discrimination and that help is available to them. They should know that your main goal, as the employer, is to create a safe environment for all employees, customers and the general public.

TSS is in the business of helping businesses develop and review their drug and alcohol programs – affordably. Contact us if you want assistance drafting your policy, getting the training you and your employees need to implement it and making sure you are up to date and compliant with local and federal regulations and laws.