Build Education and Raise Awareness

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Introductory Paragraph

Many public establishments -like schools and places of work-maintain a zero tolerance for substance use. While this high standard ensures safety, it can sometimes leave individuals with nowhere to turn if they find themselves with a substance use problem. Places of employment and schools can further assist their stakeholders by not only having high standards but also by motivating them to maintain a drug-free lifestyle through education and connection to resources. This process can begin by raising awareness of the importance of substance use in society and carefully selecting the right tools to inform and assist individuals to maintain a drug-free lifestyle in and outside of work or school[1].

Key Information

Drug education programs have changed over the years from prioritizing abstinence only in public schools, to incorporating mental health, social skills, family bonding, and behavior management in school and corporate settings.

Education for Children and Adolescents

The National Institute on Drug Abuse website has a comprehensive list of drug education programs that have evolved to target risk factors and behavioral issues that lead to first-time use. Some of those programs are more selective than others, focusing on already at-risk children and families with students who may have experimented with drugs or alcohol. Great progress has been made in education and prevention. Science has come a long way in identifying multiple solutions for preventing the onset of drug use and providing resources to those already using substances. Raising awareness of the seriousness of the issue is a top priority for organizations like the NIDA [2].

Education in the Workplace Many businesses have realized the importance of drug education and prevention in the workplace. More businesses, especially smaller businesses, could benefit from implementing drug education. This type of education can be costly and many times businesses feel they can not afford to add it to the budget. However, research shows that by implementing a drug education and drug testing program, employers and employees both experience positive outcomes. The proven benefits of drug education programs in the workplace are listed below [3].

  • Increased morale
  • Decreased workplace accidents
  • Reduced employee theft
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Decreased cost of insurance, such as workers’ compensation

The American Addiction Center provides guidance on what quality drug education programs should include the following:

  • Rules and expectations with terms clearly defined
  • Prevention methods and education
  • Testing
  • Quality employee assistance programs

One possible way to raise awareness in the workplace is to distribute materials, in writing and through visual presentations, that pertain to drug use and its impacts on the work environment and employees. Adding in a Drug Awareness day and presenting information and resources that are available to employees can increase understanding of what to do and who to turn to when an individual is struggling with substance use.

By providing education to employees about common signs that indicate someone is struggling with addiction, a workplace may be able to intervene and provide assistance before the problem escalates. Some signs of substance use may be overlooked as common ailments and other signs are more noticeable. Below are some examples [4].

Common Signs of Substance Use

  • Frequent Accidents
  • Erratic Behavior
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Slurred Speech
  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Paranoia
  • Glassy Eyes
  • Noticeable Exhaustion
  • Frequent Absenteeism

Relevant Research

Adults Survey on Drug Education

A study conducted by the American Addiction Centers surveyed 500 men and women. Thirty-seven participants reported that the most effective way they learned about drug education was by learning about the possible dangers of substance use. In the next highest category, at 20%, participants reported that the most effective drug prevention education approach was listening to the powerful testimonials of recovered adults. This information could be helpful in building an effective drug education program. Surprisingly, 41.2% of respondents reported that they did not receive any education about the science of addiction. Many of the respondents reported that they were not educated on some of the most commonly abused drugs. About half of the 500 adults surveyed endorsed no formal education about meth, ecstasy, heroin, or other opioids. These statistics support the need for building more educational resources and programs that address the gaps in the above-mentioned statistics [5].

Rates of Drug Use in the Workforce

Almost 70% of drug users are actively employed in the workplace according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) [6]. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported that ⅓ of employees are aware of the presence and illegal sales of drugs at their place of employment [7]. Drugs in the workplace have detrimental effects on all individuals due to impaired decision making and increased risk of damage to property and increased changes of physical harm due to accidents. Drug use also costs employers money because of increased turnover and increased time off. By implementing support for individuals with SUDS and integrating effective education, employers may save thousands of dollars.

Impactful Federal, State, and Local Policies

SAMHSA’s Division of Workplace Programs (DWP) performs regulatory, knowledge development, and technical assistance for federally regulated workplace programs in efforts to eliminate illicit drug use in the workplace. The DWP is also responsible for evaluating evidenced-based drug-free programs in non-federal workplaces [8].

Available Tools and Resources

Opioid Response Network (ORN)[9] provides training and education that is evidence-based and designed to meet the needs of a community or organization, all at no cost.

Substance Use Employer Cost Calculator This resource provides information about the real costs of substance use on employers and businesses. By answering questions, employers can determine how substance use in their workplace can negatively impact their budget.

Promising Practices

‘’’Project ALERT’’’ is a two year program for middle school students that aids in reducing the onset of drug use among youth. Project Alert Plus is a similar program that is geared towards highschool students [10].

‘’’Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS)’’’ This program focuses on reducing behavioral problems in elementary school students while enhancing their education within the classroom. Both of these approaches help to prevent future substance use [11].