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Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Substance use can have a significant impact on the workplace. It affects employers, employees and potentially the public. The type of substance use can vary in its severity from an employee drinking alcohol during a business lunch to an employee affected by an addiction to opioids. Employers can feel the impact through lost productivity, through the lowered morale of employees or through the compromised safety of the public.

Substance use is not the only type of impairment (e.g., fatigue, stress, family crisis) that can affect the workplace. Employers typically do not receive nor should they be expected to receive training in recognizing the different types of impairment. While they should be prepared to observe and identify impairment, they should leave diagnoses up to professionals.

Using the proper resources to assist them, employers can help their staff deal with impairment in the workplace by developing comprehensive policies that focus on prevention and education, by reducing the stigma surrounding substance use and by improving employee supports.

The Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms: 2007–2014 report estimates that lost productivity to businesses attributable to substance use in 2014 was $15.7 billion dollars. With the recent legalization of cannabis, many employers are re-examining their policies and best practices related to substance use and fitness for duty/impairment more broadly to ensure that they are comprehensive and effective.

To help employers, CCSA conducted a review of Canadian workplace policies and best practices to find out what employers were doing to address substance use and the workplace. Review key findings from the report or download the full report below.

Substance Use on the Jobsite: Challenges and Support Measures

Created in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), this podcast explores the relationship between those working in the trades and substance use. Construction workers and those working in jobs with many physical demands may experience injury or chronic pain at a higher rate. Without proper guidance, those who use opioids or other substances to manage this pain may be at an increased risk of experiencing harms. Listen to the podcast conversation with CCSA experts to learn more about the use of opioids, cannabis and alcohol as it affects workers on the jobsite; the challenges around substance use faced by workers and employers; and how workplaces can support their employees’ health and safety.

Substance Use on the Jobsite: Challenges and Support

Our Experts

Shawna Meister, MA
Senior Research and Policy Analyst
Bryce Barker, PhD, CE
Knowledge Broker

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Key Resources

Substance Use and the Workplace: Supporting Employers and Employees in the Trades

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction partnered with Health Canada to produce Substance Use and the Workplace: Supporting Employers and Employees in the Trades., a collection of resources to help reduce the harms of substance use for Canadians, particularly those working in construction and the trades.

Targeting both employers and workers, the package includes information from more than 30 organizations to help:

  • Educate employees about substances and their effects,
  • Prevent substance use harms,
  • Address employee substance use,
  • Find services and supports, and
  • Access related information from key reports and organizations.

To learn more about substances, please visit our opioids, alcohol, cannabis and stigma pages.

Employer Guide to Develop Fitness for Duty/Impairment Policy

The Atlantic Canada Council on Addiction developed a step-by-step guide to help employers develop a fitness-for-duty/impairment policy. This guide provides a useful overview, specific examples and instructions on how to develop a workplace policy.

Problematic Substance Use that Impacts the Workplace: A Step-by-Step Guide & Toolkit to Addressing It in Your Business/Organization

Resource list for substance use and the workplace

Employers frequently are looking for information and resources on how to address fitness for duty/impairment issues related to substance use. CCSA has compiled a list of resources to assist them.

Lost Productivity: Costs Due to Substance Use

The Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms: 2007–2014 report estimates the costs of substance use to various sectors of society. The costs include those related to lost productivity and how it affects organizations financially (e.g., employee assistance programs, drug testing programs, and administrative costs associated with workers’ compensation). Employers may find it useful to understand some of these costs. The cost study project provides an interactive website that allows users to calculate different costs according to various elements such as by province or territory, per capita, and year.

Use the CSUCH Visualization Tool and learn more on the cost study project website.

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