Americans are working harder and longer, and now some people are turning to drugs for a quick boost--with dire consequences. Drugs in the workplace may not be a new phenomenon, but there's a new poison taking precedence: Workplace methamphetamine abuse rose 68 percent in 2003 from a year earlier, according to data from Quest Diagnostics Inc., a large supplier of employee drug tests.
Methamphetamine, a type of speed, initially gives users a feeling of incredible energy, followed by a physical and mental crash. "It keeps them awake, and they can do marathon-type work," says Timothy Dimoff, CEO and president of Akron, Ohio-based SACS Consulting & Investigative Services Inc., a solutions provider for high-risk workplace issues. "When they crash, they'll be sluggish, inattentive, lethargic; they'll fall asleep at work or call in sick."
Both ends of the spectrum cause serious damage to employees and the overall work environment. While high on meth, employees may think they're in control, but it's a false sense of security, says Dimoff, as employees are not completely aware of their environment and are apt to have more on-the-job accidents. Signs of meth addiction include dizziness, irritability, sudden weight loss, inability to get along with co-workers or supervisors, and a possible tendency toward violence.
If you see any of these signs in an employee, act quickly. You should have a drug policy in your employee handbook that details your right to test for drug use, a timeline for a probationary period during which the employee can get help, as well as the right to terminate a drug user if he or she refuses help or tests positive during probation. "If the employee does not stop using [meth], you have no choice but to eliminate the safety risk from your company with termination," says Dimoff.