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Drugs and Substance Abuse at the Work Place Essay Sample

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Drugs and Substance Abuse at the Work Place Essay Sample

A drug is any chemical substance which when taken into the body will modify or alter the way the body functions from its normal state or from the abnormal to normal state. Drugs can be orally administered, injected, chewed, sniffed, smoked or applied. Drug abuse is the non medical use of drugs that destroys the health and productive life of an individual. It is the intentional use of psychoactive substances for purposes of altering one’s psychological state without medical supervision.

Drug abuse will often lead to pathological drug dependence, a condition in which the abuser is no longer able to stop using the drug even when the habit is causing serious damage to him or to others. The awareness that drugs and substance abuse may affect the workplace is increasing in acceptance. Many aspects of the workplace today require alertness and quick and accurate reflexes. An impairment to these qualities may cause serious accidents and interfere with the accuracy and efficiency of work. Other ways in which drugs and substance abuse can cause problems at work include: i.The after effects of substance abuse, that is, hangover and withdrawal, affect job performance ii.Absenteeism, illness and reduced productivity

iii.Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work, interfering with attention and concentration iv.Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs to other employees v.Psychological and stress related effects due to substance abuse by a family member, friend or co-worker that affects one’s job performance TYPES OF DRUGS AND SUBSTANCES REGULARLY ABUSED


This includes beer, wines, spirits, traditional Kenyan brews like chang’aa, muratina, and busaa. It is taken orally and symptoms of abuse include staggering, happiness/excitement, emotional disinhibition, motor inco-ordination, slurred speech and bad breadth. Consequences of abuse include:

i.Impaired judgement and memory
ii.Slowed reflexes
iii.Impaired motor function and blurred vision
iv.Neurological damage
v.Liver cirrhosis
vi.Intellect psychosis
viii.General body weakness and weight loss
ix.Overdose may be fatal for instance one may sleep into a coma


Examples of this include marijuana, hashish and hashish oil. These can be smoked, injected or put in food. Symptoms of abuse include impaired concentration, emotional disinhibition, distorted perception, panic attacks, cough, bloodshot eyes and increased appetite. Consequences of abuse include:

i.Lung disease
ii.Brain damage that may result in madness
iii.Impaired memory and co-ordination
iv.Affects sexual behavior
v.Possible birth defects
vi.Drug dependency


These include sleeping pills, sedatives and some tranquilizers. Are mainly taken orally or injected and the symptoms of abuse include memory impairment, disorientation, violence, slurred speech and drunken behavior without smell of alcohol. Resultant consequences of abuse include:

i.Drug dependency
ii.Muscle contraction
iii.Extreme fear or depression
v.Toxic psychosis
vi.Possible death


Examples of this type of drug include lysergic acid diethylamide, phencyclidine, and mescaline. These drugs are taken orally or injected and the general symptoms of abuse include thinking disorders, poor perception of distance, lack of attention, anxiety, illusions, euphoria and hallucinations. Consequences of abuse include:

ii.Panic reaction
v.High blood pressure


These include hydrocarbons, solvents and gasoline (for instance kerosene, petrol, rubber solution and aerosol. These are normally inhaled and symptoms of abuse include euphoria, sneezing, nausea, fatigue, nose bleeds, blood shot eyes, thirst, bad breadth, perceptual distortion and emotional disinhibition. Consequences of abuse include:

i.Intoxication similar to alcohol
ii.Damage to lungs, liver, brain and bone marrow
iii.Frequent headaches
v.Sudden death.


Examples include cigarettes, tobacco and snuff. They are chewed or smoked in pipes or wraps. Symptoms of abuse include shortness of breath, bad breath, smoker’s cough and wheezing asthma. Consequences of abuse include: i.Chronic bronchitis

iii.Constricted blood vessels


Include opium, morphine, heroin, codeine and thebaine. They are smoked, sniffed or injected and symptoms of abuse include euphoria, mental clouding, apathy, drowsiness, poor appetite, poor concentration, emotional disinhibition and poor sexual urge. Consequences of abuse include: i.Physical and psychological dependency

ii.Drastic change in lifestyle
iii.Pulmonary problems
iv.Overdose may lead to sudden death
v.If used by injection, the sharing of needles may spread hepatitis B or C and


These include cocaine, coca leaves, khat and amphetamines. These are smoked, sniffed, injected or chewed. General symptoms of abuse include trembling, nervousness, sleeplessness, violence, lack of interest, loss of appetite and weight, rapid pulse and restlessness. Consequences of abuse include:

i.Drug dependency
ii.Chronic cough
iii.Permanent brain damage
iv.Increased risk of heart attack
vi.Convulsions and seizures
vii.Premature death


These are mild central nervous system stimulants and include tea, coffee, kola nuts etc. mainly taken by mode of drinking and symptoms of abuse include increased alertness, nervousness, palpitations and sleeplessness. Consequences of abuse include:

i.Agitation (a craving desire)
ii.Habitation (increase in dosage)
iii.Peptic ulcers
iv.Withdrawal symptoms
v.Psychological dependence


These include black tar, china white, ecstacy and meth and are normally taken orally or injected. Symptoms of abuse are similar to those of heroine. Consequences of abuse include: i.Addiction
ii.Crippling effect
iv.Possible death
v.High blood pressure
vii.Irritability and restlessness


The major causes of drugs and substance abuse include but are not limited to: i.Genetic predisposition
iv.Easy access to drugs
v.Stressors at work and at home due to:
a)Shift work
b)Tight deadlines
c)Dirty noisy working environment
d)Poorly designed, difficult to use equipment
e)High risk of personal injury at work
f)Fear of losing job
g)Conflict with colleagues or supervisor
i)Peer pressure
j)Marital or personal relationship problems
k)Financial problems


i.Late arrival at work and leaving early
ii.Taking unexplained absences from work during the day
iii.Fellow workers may complain about his change of behavior or performance iv.Worker overreacts to real or imagined criticism
v.Worker complains of feeling unwell regularly
vi.Worker misses deadlines and displays decreased efficiency vii.Worker makes a lot of mistake due to poor judgement or lack of attention STAGE 2:


i.Worker takes frequent days off for vague ailments or petty reasons ii.He starts avoiding colleagues or co-workers
iii.He borrows money regularly because of the need to have large amounts of money to spend on drugs iv.He suffers repeated minor injuries on and off the job and is hospitalized more than average v.He exhibits general deteroriation in work performance and shows lack of concentration vi.He has a drop in appetite or sudden increase in appetite for food.


i.Takes frequent time off sometimes for several days
ii.Shows aggressive or violent behavior
iii.Worker performs far below expected level
iv.He displays loss of ethical values
v.He may experience financial and legal problems
vi.He suffers denial and is not willing to discuss his ‘drug’ problems with anyone


i.The worker has prolonged unpredicted absences from work
ii.The worker may drink or smoke on the job
iii.He becomes totally undependable, exhibiting uneven and incompetent performance iv.Physical health deterioration is visible
v.Financial problems worsen
vi.Increased job related accidents
NOTE: The existence of some of these signs does not necessarily mean drug abuse. But, if several of them occur, there is need to be alarmed.


i.Increased healthcare costs occasioned by drug related illnesses like depression, mental illness, trauma, heart and liver diseases ii.Reduces productivity: Drug abusing employees are more likely to be late, absent and to perform below standards. Time wastage and poor performance cost the company. iii.Workplace injuries and violence: Many disability claims for workplace injuries and violence can be attributed to drug abuse. Employees who abuse drugs are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents than other workers. More compensation claims implies more financial cost for the employer. iv.More employee turnover. Turnover is expensive to the employer since they have to incur costs of recruitment and selection, induction and other necessary trainings. v.Theft of company property.

vi.Poor decision making while carrying out their role. Wrong decisions can cause the company to incur preventable expenses and losses vii.Lower morale of co-workers
viii.Disciplinary procedures are costly and time consuming
ix.Drug testing is a costly venture for any company be it big or small x.Rehabilitation/ Employee Assistance Programs are costly to put in place and implement


Employers should have in place a formal written drug abuse policy. This should clearly outline: i.The purpose and goals of the drug abuse policy
ii.The expected and unexpected workplace behavior iii.The consequences for violating policy including procedures for determining if violations have occurred and methods by which an employee can appeal iv.Assurances that the employer will protect confidentiality; administer the policy fairly, impartially and consistently; and try to help employees gain access to resources that provide needed help.

Employers should also develop a corporate culture with focus on wellness, for instance, an organization could declare zero tolerance to drug abuse. The organizations management should set a good example in establishing and maintaining a corporate culture that discourages drug abuse. Companies could also put in place awareness and education programs to ensure all employees are informed on the company’s policy on drug abuse, health risks and other problems related with drug abuse and where to go for help. Such programs should also encourage employees to share information on drug abuse with their families. Employers could also put in place Employee Assistance programs to provide help to workers facing a range of personal difficulties.

Through such programs stress levels among workers are lowered, and workers with drug problems are properly guided and given help required. Regular unannounced drug testing could help employers know the status of their employees and take necessary action and also put employees on high alert on their employers’ expectations. An employer could also help the employee with a problem recover once identified. This can be done by a fellow worker, a person designated by the company drug policy or supervisor. Counseling can help. If possible, the employee with a drug problem can be referred for treatment and rehabilitation. Companies could also institute legal proceedings against employees are found in unauthorized possession of drugs and/or have committed drug related offences.

Armstrong, M (2006) A handbook of Human Resource Management Practice (10th edition): Kogan Page Limited. London Benderly, B & Harper, F. D (1998) Substance abuse prevention in the workplace. An Employer’s Guide: Robert A Miller (www.thirteen.org) NACADA (2006) “Frequently asked questions on drug and substance abuse”

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