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What to do about remote work drug use during work hours

Search Remotely How to Combat Work from Home Drug Use during Work Hours (1)

Regardless whether you supervise workers working from home as a remote team leader or as an in person boss managing employees reporting to a traditional in office setting; drug use has been on the rise. Mandy Owens, Clinical Psychologist was cited by the American Psychological Association, that the incidents of substance abuse has “increased in both [the] quantity and frequency.”

67% of drug users are employed

She attributes this as a consequence of the Pandemic. Many believe there is no end in the foreseeable future due to economic projections of a slowed global economy. Illicit drug use harms the user and also has a negative effect on the economy overall. Particularly among working age adults.  Even the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognizes the drug use epidemic. They share data with employers showing that  67% of all adults who abuse drugs and/or alcohol are employed.

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Drugs are correlated with drops in labor force participation

NIOSH isn’t the only federal agency with concerns. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta also completed a report in May 2022 indicating:

  • substance abuse deaths among 25 to 54 year old adults increased during the Pandemic.
  • increased drug and alcohol use can be directly correlated with 9% to 26% of the drop in labor force participation from February 2020 to June 2021.

But this site caters to remote workers working from home or working from anywhere. So, we’ll stay focused. In this vein, its probably an open secret that remote working arrangements can entice those who use and abuse illegal, prescription drugs, marihuana and alcohol even more.  We like to provide the most reliable and unvarnished information to our readers so that they can lead healthy, wealthy, loved and joy-filled lives.

Drug use is prevalent among both groups of workers

Quit Genius, the operators of the very first digital clinic to combat opioid addiction realized an unmet need when they studied the results of their research. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether there was a connection existing between remote work and increased usage of drugs and alcohol. They surveyed more than 1,000 American workers. The data revealed the following:

  • 20% (workers reporting to a traditional office), or one of every five and 31% (remote workers), or almost one in three, reported that ‘substance abuse has impacted their work performance.’
  • 61% of workers working at their home office, experienced an increased likelihood that their drug use increased in the two-year period of Covid-19 lockdowns.
  • 27% (employees reporting to a traditional office) and 37% of remote workers expressed concerns about their drug use.
  • 21% (workers reporting to a traditional office) and 31% of remote workers divulged that they arrived at work under the influence of drugs.

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Many workers under the influence of drugs during virtual meetings

This data is consistent with the findings from research conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).  SHRM cited data provided by the Sierra Tucson Addiction Treatment Center, revealed the following:

  • 25% of survey participants reported using alcohol, marijuana or other recreational drugs when communicating with work colleagues via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
  • 20% admitted using drugs while working at home.
  • 25% indicated that one benefit to their working from home arrangement was the chance to use drugs during the workday.

Users fail to seek help for many reasons

In spite of these glaring statistics, 37% of the total participant pool (those reporting to an in-office setting and those working from home) were unaware of any employer provided employee assistance programs for drug treatment. Further, 42% reported perceived lack of confidentiality, job security and costs as reasons for not seeking out information or enrolling in employer provided programs.

In addition to the ambivalent feelings expressed by employees (darn if you do, darn if you don’t), employers are equally challenged by the dilemma.

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Just 17% of employers are equipped to handle onslaught of drug use by employees

The National Safety Council  (NSC) estimates that one in every 12 employees are dealing with symptoms related to an untreated substance abuse disorder. And yet, NSC reports 75% of employers are “directly impacted by workers who abuse drugs, but just 17% consider prepared to handle the challenging conditions in which they are faced.

It has been argued by those who wish to cancel work from home arrangements use these dire statistics as support for a regression back to the traditional office setting.

5 reasons given why users abuse drugs when working from home

Fortune cited interviews with Addiction Treatment Specialists, who provide ample tales of long waiting lists populated by users seeking treatment and over-enrolled programs. The predicament for which they currently seek to address, they say is acerbated by:

  • steady employment and solid income stream of remote working drug users,
  • enticement the work at home setting gives to fuel the desire to use drugs throughout the work day,
  • lowered social stigma associated with drug use,
  • reduced positive peer pressure as users who work from home can do so without fear of negative reprisals from friends and co-workers,
  • the mistaken belief that artificial stimulants give them energy to maintain and keep abreast of daily work assignments and tasks.

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The treatment specialists argued that one key benefit of employer mandates to return to work is the revelation of drug use by many employees who report to the office to work in person. What are some of the ways in which employers detect drug use?

7 employer tips for lowering prevalence of employee drug use

First Advantage, conducted a survey demonstrated year to year period between 2021 and 2022, random workplace drug testing increased almost 40%.

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In addition to the increase in random workplace drug testing, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers the following suggestions to employers seeking to lower the prevalence of employee drug use:

  • Minimize the use of unrealistic work demands,
  • Provide employee assistance programs that advocate for access to treatment programs, counseling and other supportive services,
  • Offer peer support, mentoring and peer coaching,
  • Establish accommodations plans upon return to work,
  • Reduce the stigma associated with enrollment in recovery programs,
  • Host alcohol-free social events,
  • Emphasize health, mental and physical well-being.





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