Illegal drug and alcohol abuse by some Barbadians has been identified as a leading cause of absenteeism and poor workplace performance among employees, some of who continuously use the dangerous substances while on the job.
Manager of the National Council For Substance Abuse (NCSA), Betty Hunte, identified Marijuana and Cocaine as the most prevalent drugs currently affecting workplace performance but warned that prescription drug use was also steadily increasing.
Loss of productivity, workplace injuries, theft and even fatalities were among the problems identified as directly related to drug use and according to Hunte has been worsened by some workers attempting to offer illegal drugs for sale to their colleagues.
On the other hand, when those drugs are not available, some employees reportedly suffer from withdrawal symptoms, which further affect performance.
Hunte was addressing approximately 30 supervisors from the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW), a government department affected by such issues, during a workshop hosted by the NCSA on drugs in the workplace.
In fact, according to the MTW’s Deputy Chief Technical Officer, Phillip Tudor, the problems have led to the theft of tools, including “[weed] whackers, shovels and those kinds of things . . . leading to disharmony in the crews,” among other problems.
While Tudor urged the supervisors present to actively assist workers who may be affected, he said that in many cases, drug users and alcoholics were often reluctant to admit they were having problems.
“We had issues with one person who was often drunk on the job and we called him in and he said, ‘no boss, I don’t drink,’ but yet still I could smell the liquor coming out of his pours,” he revealed.
To respond, NCSA manager Hunte called on employers to step up the fight.
“Employers can help employees and their families through referrals to community resources and services,” said Hunte who called on local workplaces to establish Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) and Drug-Free Workplace Programmes (DFWP) to “help employees and their families, through referrals to community resources and services.”
She added that “many individuals and families face a host of difficulties closely associated with drug use, and they bring these problems into the workplace, directly or indirectly.”
Hunte said interventions by employers were not only critical to the improvement of the workplace productivity, but also the community at large.
“By taking steps to combat substance abuse and addiction among employees, a company can increase productivity; reduce N.I.S claims, absenteeism, employee thefts, accidents, legal liability and turnover; lower medical and health benefit costs and improve morale and employee health.
“And because we tend to spend so much time in the workplace, agencies are in an excellent position to help employees, their families and their communities combat this growing problem,” said Hunte.
In addition, she pointed out that both men and women were falling victim to drug abuse in the workplace, but different factors were influencing the two.
“Some of the differences for women center on the physical effects of addiction while others focus on how women relate to their families, their communities and their children.
“Many of the symptoms of addiction for women tend to be directed inwardly including anxiety, shame and depression. For men, the symptoms tend to be more visible and external- aggressive or drunk driving, fighting and assault,” said Hunte,” she said.