Printer Friendly

A strategy to stop substance abuse.


A RECENT GALLUP POLL FOUND that "a record 27 percent of Americans now consider drugs the most important problem facing the nation, more than those who named poverty and homelessness, the economy, and the budget deficit." This statistic was revealed in a Washington Post article in August 1989, which also stated that "more than three fourths of the American people want tougher laws against drug users." The bottom line is, Americans are fed up with drug abuse.

The Post article continued by saying businesspeople have known for some time that drug abuse within the work force is "the silent killer of profits," costing as much as 10 percent of payrolls. Alcohol and drug abuse combined cost American industry $100 billion annually in lost productivity, with $26 billion to $33 billion of that figure attributed to drug abuse.

Unfortunately, as long as the demand for drugs continues, a supply will be provided. As many as 50 percent of all first-time crack users become addicted. That's a frightening statistic by itself, but now, to preserve the market, cocaine is being laced with heroin in a combination called a parachute; the cocaine takes users up and the heroin slowly brings them down.

Even if the supply of cocaine and heroin entering the United States were stopped tomorrow, drug abuse would continue. Confirmed abusers would simply switch to other sources, like designer drugs obtained at pharmacies through phony prescriptions or crooked pharmacists.

Various drastic actions and strategies have been proposed to eliminate the use of illegal drugs, including

* making illegal drugs legal,

* using the military to seal US borders,

* testing everyone for drug use,

* spending more for interdiction,

* spending more for education, and

* putting drug kingpins to death.

None of these proposals, considered individually or as a group, offers a permanent solution for the nation, much less for an individual corporation faced with a drug abuse problem.

The problem will exist until we wipe out the demand for illegal drugs. We must arouse the national spirit and instill in the general populace a mindset that voluntarily rejects illegal drugs. Then we'll have a solution to the drug problem.

ASSUMING THIS DESCRIPTION of the situation is accurate, what should a corporation faced with a drug problem do? Initially, it should establish a drug abuse policy and implement a program using the following guidelines:

* Inform employees that selling or furnishing illicit drugs or unauthorized controlled substances on corporate property will result in termination, and that use or possession of illicit drugs on corporate property will result in disciplinary action or termination.

* Educate employees and their families about the dangers and harmful effects of drug abuse.

* Train supervisors to detect illicit drug use and to confront abusing employees and refer them to confidential sources to help them recover.

* Provide assistance to drug abusers and their families through an employee assistance program (EAP).

* Develop a corporate policy on drug abuse in cooperation with operating managers, general counsel, employee relations staff, the medical department, the security department, occupational health staff, and union representatives. The policy should cover all employees, applicants, and visitors and combine education, counseling, assistance, deterrence, and discipline.

The policy should state that the corporation's products or services require the highest quality, safety, environmental, or even national security considerations. The policy should also underscore the corporation's concern for the overall safety and well-being of its employees, customers, visitors, and the surrounding community and point out the corporation's dedication to maintaining a drug-free workplace.

Advance notice of the corporation's substance abuse policy and program should be given to all employees, and current employees should acknowledge in writing their understanding of the policy and agreement to comply. Notice of the policy and program should be included in all employment applications and agreements.

ONCE A POLICY IS ESTABLISHED, it must be enforced. Enforcement can be difficult. The biggest limitation on a corporation's ability to implement a drug policy that might include testing and searches of its employees is the employees' right or expectation of privacy.

Private businesses not involved in government classified contracts are not subject to the same constitutional limitations regarding searches, interrogations, and due process that the government must follow. Therefore, by enforcing a drug control program, private businesses are not violating the federal right to privacy. (However, state laws may be more liberal in their interpretation of the right to privacy in the workplace.)

A corporation should search its own property periodically and should reserve the right to search personal belongings, such as automobiles, purses, briefcases, lunch containers, tool boxes, and anything else brought onto corporate property by employees or visitors.

The corporation must also establish a rigid and unswerving policy regarding the confidentiality and disclosure requirements related to its substance abuse program. All employee information maintained in connection with the program should be considered confidential and communicated only on a strict need-to-know basis. Discussions with employees regarding suspected substance abuse should be conducted as privately as possible.

Unless the employee consents in writing to the release of additional information, external requests for the results of a body fluid test or for the reason an employee was terminated or an applicant denied employment should be answered only by stating that the individual is not qualified for employment. Information gathered during an employee's participation in an EAP should not be disclosed without the written consent of the employee, except as provided under mandatory disclosure laws.

Developing such policies and programs can be complicated, and they are no guarantee against a legal challenge. They do, however, provide a reasonable basis for defense against such charges as defamation, slander, invasion of privacy, harassment, wrongful discharge, mental and emotional distress, and discrimination.

ONCE A DRUG POLICY IS IN PLACE, a corporation can use the following indicators to evaluate its situation:

* employee complaints or complaints from any source regarding substance abuse within the workplace,

* supervisory observations or suspicions,

* discovery of substance abuse paraphernalia in restrooms, locker rooms, warehouses, loading docks, or parking lots,

* physical altercations between employees,

* increases in employee theft,

* malicious damage of corporate merchandise, equipment, or other property,

* discovery that trade secrets or inside information that could facilitate a hostile corporate takeover has been sold,

* rising absenteeism and tardiness,

* more accidents than normal,

* increased workers' compensation, medical, and disability claims,

* high turnover and low morale,

* flagrant disregard for corporate regulations as well as increased disciplinary actions and grievance proceedings,

* poor job performance, decreased production, and waste of material, and

* numerous mistakes, errors, and general loss of quality.

Many corporations call on their security departments or focus supervisory attention on a drug problem when it is recognized. When a drug problem becomes serious, local law enforcement authorities should be contacted, since illicit drug use and trafficking are criminal acts. Also, some corporate security personnel are not trained to handle drug abuse investigations and the legal aspects of detection and control. Unfortunately, law enforcement authorities in most jurisdictions are overloaded with daily operations and are unable to provide the time and resources necessary to combat an individual corporation's drug abuse problem.

Once a corporation has an established substance abuse policy and program and has determined through the indicators that it has a serious drug abuse problem, it should consider outside professional assistance. This approval will probably provide better results than attempting to make narcotics agents out of supervisors. Outside professionals can be more experienced, objective, independent, and fair.

WHAT SHOULD A CORPORATION expect when it hires an outside firm to conduct an undercover operation?

The corporation should realize that considerable time and effort are involved. A successful operation may take six weeks to six months or longer.

The professional consultant should have contacted local law enforcement authorities to obtain their concurrence and determine their willingness to participate, as well as their rules and instructions. Coordinating with the police will also ensure that ongoing investigations are not interfered with. Any illicit drugs obtained or purchased should be logged in by police officials and retained by them as evidence.

The purpose of the operation is to determine if illegal drugs are being used or sold in the workplace, and if so, to identify those persons involved and obtain evidence to support either criminal prosecution by local authorities or administrative action by the corporation. Corporations may wish to rehabilitate identified users on the condition that there be no repeat offenses.

Using outside professional assistance generally means introducing an undercover agent into the work force where the problem appears most acute. Before making such a decision, a corporation should consider the long-run effects, specifically employee reaction to such a potentially provocative deterrent. If handled professionally, the general reaction will ultimately be appreciation and gratitude, since most employees want a drug-free workplace.

A key factor is the selection of the undercover agent or agents (UA). The UA may be male or female, and he or she must be reliable, able to follow instructions, and credible as a future witness. Although an individual with an arrest record or history of drug abuse may quickly establish rapport with drug users, he or she would not be acceptable for this type of undercover operation.

The UA may be recommended by the local police or provided by the retained management consultants, or one from each source may be introduced unknown to the other. The police should brief the UA regarding the local drug situation, evidence chain of custody procedures, and methods of simulating drug-taking (the UA will be instructed not to take illegal drugs, so he or she must be able to fake it credibly). The UA should also have a good line ready, such as, "I don't do drugs but my girlfriend (or boyfriend) does crack and crank."

The UA should dress and act to conform with the assigned work environment; project a laid-back, carefree attitude; and be capable of quickly making friends with coworkers. He or she should not search employees' desks, lockers, or personal belongings; socialize with coworkers away from the job; or become romantically involved at the work site. The UA should be forbidden to carry a weapon.

The UA should be instructed on how to avoid entrapment and should understand that his or her role is that of disinterested observer with no stake in the outcome. The UA should be concerned with drug abuse at the workplace, not away from the job, and his or her placement in the target work environment should be known by as few people as possible within the corporation. He or she should not be given names of suspected employees.

The USA should observe everything that happens at the work site and in some instances--if state law permits--carry a concealed recording device for preserving significant conversations. After work and away from the job site, the UA should make detailed notes regarding each day's happenings. He or she should meet regularly with the professional consultant and local police to be debriefed.

Often the UA witnesses improper activity other than substance abuse in the workplace, such as theft, malicious destruction of corporate property, patent infringements and loss of trade secrets, time and attendance fraud, assaults, loan sharking, or gambling. White detecting such offenses is not the purpose of the undercover operation, the UA should still report the details if they arise.

Another concern to some corporations is the local labor union. Although the UA does not collect or report information regarding unionized labor activities or attempts to unionize workers, securing union cooperation and support for an undercover operation may be difficult. The best approach is to include the union in a negotiated, comprehensive substance abuse prevention and assistance program. If the union helps develop an effective and fair program that includes treatment for workers who voluntarily seek it, the union may have less tolerance for workers who ignore the program and continue to abuse drugs in the workplace.

Finally, some corporations have considered other surveillance measures--hidden CCTV cameras, two-way mirrors, and nonconsensual eavesdropping on or recording of employees' conversations--to detect substance abuse in the workplace. Such methods are strongly discouraged because they not only represent an indefensible invasion of privacy but also may be illegal.

A corporation needs a drug abuse policy that is effective, coordinated, and well-publicized. If such a program has been implemented and some employees refuse to comply with it, a corporation should take firm steps to enforce its policy.

Daniel R. Foley is a senior consultant with the Fairfax Group Ltd., a management consulting firm in Falls Church, VA. He was formerly deputy director of the Defense Department's Criminal Investigative Service and a senior special agent of the Naval Investigative Service. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Foley, Daniel R.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:The iceman cometh.
Next Article:A plan to legalize.

Related Articles
The war in the workplace.
Why don't we get off the fence?
Winning the war against substance abuse.
NIC creates partnerships to address drug problems.
A cognitive-behavioral approach to substance abuse treatment: Canada embraces social learning concept in treatment of substance abuse.
Under the influence: Colorado's a great place to work for substance abusers, too.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters