Businesses and Organizations

Excessive alcohol consumption, prescription drug misuse, and illegal drug use affect families, communities, and businesses. Overall it costs Maine over a billion dollars a year and over $1.5 million in lost productivity.  Here are answers to some common questions and steps to reduce substance use in the workplace.

What should I do if substance use is an issue affecting my organization?

Understanding the prevalence of substance use and related costs is essential. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 68.9% of drug users are actively employed.   Substance using employees cost employers money and can increase liability risk.  Individuals using substances have:

  • Higher absenteeism
  • Lower job productivity
  • Greater health care expenses for injuries and illnesses 

Programs can help ensure the health of both your employees and your organization.  They can improve performance and injury rates, and reduce costs.  Providing substance use prevention information can help people to think about not only their own behaviors, but to also think about what they can do to prevent people in their family or life from engaging in substance misuse.  An employee who is dealing with a loved one’s substance use related situations might also experience absenteeism and lower productivity.

An effective workplace program can prevent substance use related situations from impacting your organization. Effective workplace programs deal with pre-employment and employment matters.  These programs include: policies, hiring and application requirements, testing and performance monitoring, and intervening with substance use related situations such as accidents and injuries.

Where can I access information about workplace policy and programs?

Workplace programs can help protect the wellbeing of your employees, organization, and bottom line.  Drug programs protect the investment made in employees through training, professional development, and experience.  Retaining personnel and referrals for treatment may be less expensive than replacing them.  When treated as a disease, substance abuse is treatable.  Drug Free Workplace or Employee Assistance Programs are worth the cost of running them. They can:

  • Increase organizational morale
  • Decrease accidents
  • Reduce theft
  • Prevent turnover

Drug Free Workplace or Employee Assistance Programs can help organizations provide a safer environment and have proven benefits such as boosting revenue.  For more in-depth information about Drug Free Workplace Programs, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services DFWP website. Learn about Employee Assistance Programs in Maine.

Who are our local partners in prevention to assist us with educational programming and resources for our employees or community?

Lunch-n-learn presentations or wellness events provide a great opportunity to educate people about what they can do to prevent substance use. These events show your care about your employees, their families, and the community.  They provide employees with information and resources that may help them or a family member.  There are prevention providers contracted throughout the State of Maine to provide substance abuse prevention services.  There are also Drug Free Community coalitions across the State who may be able to help.  You may not see an organization listed in your town or city specifically, yet, many of these coalitions serve a broad geographic area.   Reach out to the closest one near you.  Enforcement agencies and medical or treatment professionals in your community may be well equipped to assist you as well.  The Maine CDC Tobacco and Substance Use Prevention Program hosts the Maine Prevention Store  where you can find a wide variety of free health resources.  Post information in break rooms and have resources readily available.

How can I recognize if someone in the organization has a substance abuse problem?

Signs of substance use may be obvious such as

  • Slurred speech
  • Glassy eyes
  • Erratic behavior
  • An accident or fall

Other signals may be more subtle, including

  • Fatigue
  • Poor hygiene
  • Reduced productivity
  • Talk about relationship problems
  • Frequent absenteeism

These signs could also be because of other health issues or life events.  It is not your responsibility to diagnose an employee. It is your role to recognize that they are having trouble.  If you are not the supervisor, bring your concerns to someone who is in that capacity. It can be a manager, security officer, or human resource personnel.  If you are a supervisor, speak with the employee in a supportive and respectful manner. Focus on what you are observing and the behavior you are concerned about; if the situation allows, speak in confidence.  Be sure to follow your agency’s policies regarding reporting, documentation, and provision of employee assistance. 

Maine's Department of Labor offers Impairment Detection for Employers and Supervisors training as part of their SafetyWorks! Program.  The training is offered six times a year.  Use the key word search on the Safety Works! training listing site to learn about upcoming offerings.

How can I help a colleague who has a substance use problem?

If you are noticing signs and symptoms at work, their use is most probably already causing problems in their life. Let them know you are concerned and that you care.   If they choose to talk to you about their use, or problems, listen in confidence (if the situation allows).

Remind them of the positive things in their life, and encourage substance use behaviors that will help them maintain those things. Inform them of the ways substance use is impacting colleagues and the organization and that it could impact their job.  

Be supportive by offering resources or help with identifying counseling and treatment services in the community. Let them know how you can support them if they are willing to seek assistance.  Remain respectful and supportive if they choose not to speak with you about their use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs offers more, information that may be helpful for you or others at your organization. 

Both in and outside of my organization, what can I do to help combat substance abuse?

Everyone can do things in their professional and personal lives to reduce substance use from affecting their organization, community, and Maine. 

You can:

  • Learn more about substance use issues
  • Speak with others who have similar concerns
  • Reduce access
  • Be a positive role model
  • Empower people to work towards their goals
  • Monitor
  • Report concerning situations or suspicious activity
  • Help people feel like people and the community care about them and want to see them thrive

Anyone can become involved in prevention initiatives, a local community coalition, and advocate for substance use prevention in the work place.