By Sandy Baker
Grabbing a drink after work doesn’t seem like a bad thing. You’ve worked hard and dealt with plenty of stress during the day. Sometimes you even have a drink before you leave work, thanks to the bottle you’ve tucked into a drawer.
Alcohol at Work Is an Issue
Is drinking alcohol at work a sign of alcohol use disorder? What if you pop a pill to help you deal with your anxiety even though you don’t have a prescription? Does using alcohol or drugs to get through difficult situations mean you have a substance use disorder? For some, yes, that’s exactly the case.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites a study showing that 15% of workers reported impairment at work from alcohol consumption at least once that year. About 9% reported being hung-over during their workday.
In most work environments, employers do not allow any alcohol consumption. While you may be able to use a prescription medication, misuse of any drugs is also typically not allowed. So if you are drinking or using a substance at work, you’re already putting your job on the line. The reasons for this are clear – alcohol and drugs lead to impairment, which creates liability for the employer.
More Reasons Why You Should Care
Consumption of alcohol or drugs at work could be an indication that you have an addiction to, or at least a dependence on, the substance. This is particularly true if you have any of the following symptoms:
- You hide your use, often making sure that no one knows you’re using.
- It feels impossible to get through the day without using. You may rationalize this by thinking, “This job is just too hard. Anyone would do the same.”
- You feel agitated, ill, frustrated, and unable to think when you don’t use something. Your job seems harder when you are not under the influence.
- Thoughts of using are constant. You may think about your next drink or pill on a regular basis.
- You have tried to stop using, maybe multiple times, but you can’t sustain it very long.
What happens when you’re using these substances at work? You may believe you have them under control, but that’s far from the case in many situations. Often, employers and supervisors know something is happening. They may not know just how bad it is, but they are sure to see changes in work performance, communication, and socialization at work. These, too, are signs of the development of a substance use disorder.
Many times, substance use leads to termination from employment. The liability risks to employers are simply too high. If the use of alcohol or drugs interferes with your ability to do your job, that’s when there is a significant concern. You may be putting yourself, the company, customers, or others at risk when you are unable to maintain health and safety standards, perform your duties properly, and behave in a safe manner.
You Can’t Lose Your Job, But You Can’t Stop Either
For some employees, alcohol or drug addiction isn’t something they want to continue, but they can’t stop for long. Dependence may draw you back in, time and time again, to continue to use. At the same time, you can’t lose your job, especially if you or your family depend on the income.
One option to consider is the use of the Family Medical Leave Act. This law may allow you to take time off from work to get treatment for a medical or mental health need, including addiction. Here are a few things to know:
- Be sure to check the U.S. Department of Labor website for specific updates on how the policy works and to see whether you and your company qualify.
- FMLA does not require employers to pay you, but it does protect your job for up to 12 work weeks every 12 months.
During your time away, your employer cannot replace you. Also, you may not have to tell your employer everything about what is happening to you.
Another option is to speak to human resources directly about any treatment programs that your company may have in place. Some employers see the value of helping support their employees through difficult mental health and physical illness.
How Can We Help You?
As a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in Lubbock, Texas, we understand just how overwhelming it can be to work through challenges like substance use disorder. If you’re consistently using drugs or drinking alcohol at work, for any reason, in any amount, reach out to our team today to learn how we can help you on the path to recovery.