The term “recreational” defines as an activity done for enjoyment when one is not working. Skiing, knitting, sporting leagues, and book clubs are examples of recreational activities that can enhance our overall life experience. Recreational is also a word used to describe the casual use of mind-altering substances such as drugs and alcohol. Because these behaviors are often exhibited in social settings, recreational drug and alcohol use is oftentimes perceived as harmless, non habit-forming behavior due to its informal nature and seemingly broad social acceptance.
However, a thin line separates the casual use of drugs and alcohol and the potential steep fall into a serious substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse disorders manifest when the recurrent use of drugs and/or alcohol causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
Why then, are some people able to casually enjoy a cocktail on the weekend while firing up the grill, while others end up crossing the line from recreational use to addiction? And, when a user’s life is flipped upside down because of their physical and psychological dependence on mind-altering substances, what are they and their loved ones to do?
In this new series, we will take a deeper dive into what decades of psychological and pharmacological research have to tell us about the science behind substance abuse disorders and addiction, how individuals are affected, and what employers can do to both thwart problematic behavior and to offer aid through established Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).
To learn more about drugs of abuse, visit our resources page or our common drugs of abuse literature.
Employers conduct drug testing for a number of reasons – pre-employment, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and return-to-duty. Of these, reasonable suspicion can often be the most litigious and, as such, points out the importance of creating and maintaining a comprehensive workplace drug testing policy and program. The case of Layne v. Kanawha County Board of Education is a great example of an effective policy in action.
The case was presented in a recent article in the National Law Review. In it, “the petitioner, Layne, was a middle school sign language interpreter who was observed behaving erratically by five employees.” Her actions were reported to the school principle who subsequently met with Layne. During their conversation, the principle observed suspicious behaviors. Among other things, she had trouble sitting still, was rambling, and seemed overly fixated on items in her bag. The principal documented his observations and requested that she submit to a drug test. The article goes on to state that “when the interpreter refused, the consequences (i.e., disciplinary action) were explained and after refusing further, the school suspended the interpreter.” She continued to refuse to take a drug test and the school opted to not renew her contract, effectively terminating her employment.
Layne fought the termination and sued the Board of Education. She lost her case and subsequently appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of Appeals found no error in the initial ruling and affirmed the lower court’s decision.
This case demonstrates the importance of creating a detailed, comprehensive workplace drug and alcohol testing policy. Best practices for such a policy include:
- Have a written policy that clearly spells out the types of testing that will be conducted and the consequences for refusing to test
- Actively communicate your substance abuse policy to employees
- Provide supervisor training on the warning signs of drug abuse
- Make certain that your testing program complies with state laws
Learn more about creating effective workplace testing programs by downloading our Guide to Establishing a Workplace Drug Testing Program. For information on drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.