Substance Abuse Policy in the Workplace a Simple Guide

Creating a Supportive Workplace: Addressing Substance Issues

Implementing a substance abuse policy is a vital first step for workplace safety, but it’s just the beginning. To truly make an impact, companies must foster a culture of education, support, and proactive engagement. Here’s how to ensure your policy not only exists but thrives.

First lets look at the particulars, like what it is and how it operates.

Understanding Substance Abuse Policies in Canada

In Canada, a substance abuse policy outlines the guidelines and procedures for addressing substance use and abuse within the workplace. These policies are designed to promote a safe and healthy work environment by preventing substance-related incidents and supporting affected employees. Key components of a typical policy include:

  • Clear Definitions: Defining what constitutes substance abuse, including alcohol, illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription medications.
  • Employee Responsibilities: Outlining the expectations for employees regarding substance use, both on and off the job.
  • Support and Resources: Providing information about available support programs, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), counseling, and rehabilitation services.
  • Testing and Screening: Describing the circumstances under which testing may be conducted, such as pre-employment screening, random testing, or testing following an incident.
  • Disciplinary Actions: Specifying the consequences for violating the policy, which may range from warnings to termination, depending on the severity of the offense.
  • Confidentiality: Ensuring that all information related to abuse cases is handled with the utmost confidentiality to protect employee privacy.

By implementing a comprehensive policy, Canadian workplaces can proactively address substance use issues, ensuring a safer, healthier, and more productive environment for all employees.

Fostering a Supportive Work Culture

A positive work culture and strong teamwork are crucial in creating an environment where employees feel safe to discuss substance abuse and seek help. Here’s how fostering such a culture can make a significant difference:

Open Communication

Encouraging open dialogue about mental health and substance abuse can break down stigmas and create a supportive atmosphere. When employees know they can speak freely about their struggles without fear of judgment or retribution, they are more likely to seek help early. Letting people know that help comes in various forms and it’s not only for alcohol abuse, illegal drugs, prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs. Occupational health and workplace health comes is all shapes and sizes and everyone needs different things.

Team Support

A cohesive team can provide a strong support network for individuals facing these issues. Colleagues who are aware of the signs and feel empowered to offer support can make a substantial impact. Team members can encourage one another to adopt healthy coping mechanisms and provide emotional support during challenging times.

Occupational health isn’t just about job performance, it is also about creating a culture where people can flourish…not just as employees. Prescription drugs, alcohol misuse, alcohol consumption at a high level, over-the-counter medications and substance misuse are typically coping mechanisms for other issues in a person’s life. If the right support is given at work the root issues can often be addressed and that will, in time also help with coping.

Leadership Example

Leaders and managers play a vital role in fostering a supportive culture. Setting an example—openly discussing mental health, participating in educational programs, talking about prescription drugs, opioids, job performance and a healthy treatment program can help normalize sharing and showing empathy. This will signal to the rest of the organization that it’s safe and acceptable to talk about and address substance abuse.

Regular Training and Education

Providing regular training and educational opportunities ensures that employees are aware of the resources available to them and understand the importance of substance abuse policies. This ongoing education helps maintain awareness and reinforces the company’s commitment to a safe and healthy workplace.

Inclusive Policies

Creating policies that focus on support rather than punishment encourages employees to seek help before problems escalate. By emphasizing rehabilitation and assistance over disciplinary actions, companies can foster a culture of trust and care.

When work culture and teamwork align to support employees’ well-being, the entire organization benefits. A supportive environment not only aids in the prevention and early intervention of substance abuse but also enhances overall morale, productivity, and safety.

You have a substance abuse policy in place. Congratulations! But now what?

Having a policy is essential, but it means nothing without buy-in and employee education. I see it all the time. Companies put these policies in place but don’t actually have a plan to:

substance abuse policy graphic my Mary

👉 Help employees understand why the policy is important (SAFETY!),
👉 Create a culture that supports substance abuse policy buy-in, OR
👉 Give people the tools to be successful (PS – this is where you want to start).

That is why you need to have education programs in place – Creating not ONLY onboarding education but also yearly check-ins and refreshers that create an overall culture of safety. It’s about giving your employees the tools they need, along with your policy so that you can increase health and lower safety risks.

When it comes to workplace substance abuse, high functioning doesn’t mean healthy functioning. Sometimes your company’s star employees are the ones who struggle the most. You trust them to get the job done, and they do. They will push the hardest, work the overtime, pull the all-nighters, and never say, “it can’t be done.” They are the first to step forward when you ask for volunteers and prioritize achieving high-end results EVERY TIME. What would you do without them?

No, seriously. What would you do?

Because always overachieving and pushing yourself to the limit puts unreasonable stress on the body, mind, spirit, and relationships. And it’s in these vulnerable states of stress that the risk of substance use (aka self-medicating) can turn to substance abuse. Your high-functioning, high achievers may ignore the healthy choices that sustain them long-term for short-term results of an upper or a downer. So what can you do?

Often it’s as simple as checking in. Let your high-functioning, high achievers know that you see their hard work and determination. Let them know that you want them around for the long term. And then help them and your organization by implementing substance abuse education and training. And if you are the high functioning, high achiever, set an example of sustainable success by reaching out for confidential support.

mary sorobey talks about substance abuse in the work place

Sorobey Psychology is Here to Help

Sorobey Psychology and Sorobey Assessments are here to help individuals and workplaces in Alberta get the preventative education, assessments, and support they need when facing substance abuse.

When an on-site substance abuse problem is discovered, most Alberta companies have plenty of policies and processes to “deal with” the employee in question. But in my experience responding to work-related substance abuse issues, what we should really be talking about is “support.” Because substance abuse doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.

Most of the workplace substance abuse challenges I see result from one or a combination of:

  • Chronic stress
  • Disconnection from family
  • A lack of coping skills
  • “Work hard, play hard” company culture
  • Emotional mismanagement

But believe it or not, that is good news! Because when workplaces put proactive education and awareness in place, we can start building a foundation for healthy relationships with substances and improve safety and performance. Let’s keep the conversation going!

How has the discovery of substance abuse affected your workplace? Do you think proactive substance abuse education can have an impact?

Book Sorobey Psychology for your 2023 substance abuse & mental wellness education programs. Get in touch, and we can create a custom plan perfect for your workplace and industry.

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With Sorobey Psychology Centre, you can access proven and professional assessments, proactive psychoeducational training, treatment and support.

Reach out today to create a customized plan for your workplace.

ten signs of substance abuse disorder in the workplace I am on a mission to empower image

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