Isolated Employee Substance Abuse: Should You Look the Other Way?

Occasionally, within your business operations, you will find that your employees abuse drugs or alcohol…sparingly. This might be because of isolated family events, one-time trauma cases, or other infrequent reasons. Whatever the case, you might be put in the situation of deciding between harsh consequences for substance abuse or looking the other way concerning isolated incidents. Which choice should you make?

Our research begins with a paper by Barry Everitt and Trevor Robbins. [1] It outlines the process from initial drug use to habitual use to complete addiction and compulsion. The gradual toxicity and ultimate tolerance to higher doses of the abused drug appears to begin at the neural level, and involves a balancing act to control the dopamine reactions to the drug, leading to small levels of withdrawal and returning tolerance. Picture a boat being tipped, swaying side-to-side and returning to buoyancy.

Robbins and Everitt authored another article, explaining and supporting this process more thoroughly. [2] They explore the dopamine and serotonin reactions to the drug, genetic expression, and finally drug addiction at the cognitive and behavioral levels. As the opposing tolerance and resistance swings out of balance, behavior mimics the drug-obtaining actions and returns the body to an addicted state, even after the addiction has begun to wear off. In other words, it is very important to not connect the habitual actions of the body with drug highs, because the actions can fill in the gap where the high has already left. In this manner, addiction can begin to take its toll in a very real and dangerous way.

Initial and infrequent drug and alcohol abuse inhibits the individual from finding healthy, real-world solutions on their own. This, coupled with the beginning stages of addiction interest, can lead to a real problem. It is important to not be too lenient with your employees, even if they show a rare interest in substance abuse. However, cracking down too hard at infrequent intervals can unnecessarily open up a can of worms. Use tact and discretion, and remember to encourage healthy solutions in their lives.

Drug and alcohol testing encourages normal reactions to life stresses. It sends the message that we should act with adult responsibility, even in the face of crises. Enable your staff to pick themselves up off the floor when their personal lives get too rough by being supportive, setting boundaries, and keeping their workplace positive and clean. Call CMM Technology today for quality drug and alcohol testing equipment: +618-9204-2500.

1. “Neural systems of reinforcement for drug addiction: from actions to habits to compulsion : Abstract : Nature Neuroscience.” Nature Publishing Group : science journals, jobs, and information. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.

2. “Drug Addiction: Bad Habits Add Up.” News and Views . N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011.

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