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White Collar Drug Abuse

Keeping the office culture safe and productive

Keep it up! The bathrooms and common areas are always clean. The staff is professional. The medical provider was friendly and pleasant.
—Mobile Health Patient
White collar drug abuse

With over two-thirds of all adult drug abusers employed, it is a high probability that a few employees are engaging in such dangerous illicit behavior in your company. Although many might stereotype the employed drug abuser as the creative artist in a bohemian design firm, the dangers apply to employees who use their abuse to stay up later, relax more, numb life pains, or just escape for a few hours a day. These white-collar abuses are not rare and plague corporations across the United States and beyond.

We operate best when we split our day in three’s. 24 hours should be eight hours for sleeping, eight hours for working, and eight hours for personal care. Without this, our bodies will start to shut down and force itself to rest. Sleep deprivation might be a drug on its own causing a lack of focus, loss of cognitive and motor skills, degrading of personal health, increased stress and more. If your star employee is consistently clocking in for 10+ hours a day, think of the bigger picture. How is someone able to neglect their bodily needs to provide your firm with increased productivity?

Popular stimulants in the workplace include cocaine and a variety of speed substances. Cocaine is notable drug of choice due to its discretion, difficulty to detect, and euphoric energy. A simple search online for ‘cocaine Wall Street’ will bring up an abundance of articles tying the drug to power traders. The British professor David Nutt went as far as to blame the 2008 financial crash to a real cocaine crash among the traders. Although it is unrealistic to blame a worldwide recessions on a few partying bankers, it is very real that overconfident and overworked employees abusing cocaine do make unwise choices due to mental impairment.

Thanks to mainstream culture’s connotative view of cocaine, society as a whole does shun and discourage its use, but makes speed seem like the safer and better option. Speed is a blanket term consisting of amphetamine, methamphetamine, and other ‘uppers’ one uses to increase alertness. Some seem as harmless as a Ritalin pill, while meth is immediately associated with less desirable attributes. When prescribed by a physician, these substances can help individuals with serious attention disorders. When attained for recreational or pleasurable needs, they are the cause of many dangerous side effects.

For the corporate heroes who fear cocaine, or just cannot afford it, a friend with extra Adderall might be the entire fix they need. Adderall, popularized by college students studying throughout the night, is an energy boosting and focusing enhancing substance. Without the euphoria of cocaine, it seems like the perfect drug of choice for the workplace. This might be the case until the dependent nature of amphetamines prevents the employee from being as productive without the next pill. This slippery slope results in a crash that can destroy careers or even an entire business.

A new contender to the ‘stay up all night’ working culture is the brand name drug ‘Provigil’. Provigil is approved for the treatment of narcolepsy – a severe sleep disorder causing excessive sleepiness and exhaustion. Provigil is proven to fight narcolepsy and turn off the brain’s desire to sleep. This is why US air force pilots in a test study were able to stay up for 88 hours on Provigil. That study did conclude that Provigil kept them up, but it was not found to be a realistic substitute for sleeping. Even still, if cocaine is the choice for east coast financial power hours, Provigil is supreme among west coast start-ups with 20-hour workdays.

We do not know all the risks and dangers of some newer uppers like Adderall and Provigil, but truck drivers have always been a target client for meth dealers across the country. Drivers who join this market are more likely to be involved in accidents and violent incidents. After years of research, the US Department of Transportation has its own DOT drug testing policy, which now requires most truck drivers to undergo pre-employment, annual, random, and post-accident drug testing. This initiative increased road safety and decreased trucking-related accidents. Such programs prove that drug abuse does not increase workplace productivity and will generally have the opposite effect.

Employee productivity and health go hand in hand. It is not sustainable to have employees who sacrifice long-term health for short-term productivity. Around the world, countries see illicit drug dependence as a mental health concern that requires protection and treatment. And rightfully, drug abusers are not mentally capable of making rational decisions. This allows for some forgiveness during a treatment and rehabilitation phase. If recovered, a former addict always has the right to a second chance.

If you suspect a co-worker is showing signs of drug dependence, it is important not to jump to conclusions. Consult with a supervisor or human resources director who should have policies in place to deal with such situations. As denial is a common defense, the employer might require an immediate or random drug test, in accordance with local laws. Again, as drug abuse is a mental health problem, it is important to gather all the facts and review all options before making a decision.