Drug and alcohol addiction affect every aspect of a person’s life, including their work. The role that employers can play is to help their employees avoid addiction in the workplace in South Africa. It is not the responsibility of the employer to look at the personal life of the employee. However, the problems associated with the addiction can have serious implications for the workplace.

Substance abuse and dependence are a global concern and very costly to all societies where they occur. Improved economic opportunities in South Africa since 1994 have led to a rise in alcohol-related problems. The trafficking of substances and the number of people in the workplace seeking treatment for substance-abuse problems have also increased over this period.

Side Effects

The side effects of addiction in the workplace include an increase in absenteeism, injuries, productivity loss, and theft. All these factors ultimately cause increased costs that affects the employer directly. The cost of the hiring, retraining and firing processes also adds additional strain to companies.

Therefore, it is essential that employers understand addiction, the prevalence of substance abuse among working adults, and the costs related to substance abuse. Substance abuse is highly treatable, particularly when it is addressed as a chronic medical disease. Reducing employee substance abuse can help employers improve productivity, reduce workplace injuries, reduce employee turnover, and decrease health care costs.

Helping Someone with a Drug Problem

It can be very stressful and difficult to care for an addicted person. This can even make you feel embarrassed due to their use of drugs. However, you are to keep in mind that you are never alone in this world to help addicted persons. You have the best support like ARCA to understand, as well as handle such addiction problems.

Some Clues and Indications of Addiction

If an employee is using drugs, it may go unnoticed for some time. However, some of the clues or indications of addiction are as follows:


  • Inconsistent work quality;
  • Poor concentration;
  • Lowered productivity;
  • Increased absenteeism;
  • Unexplained disappearances from the jobsite;
  • Carelessness, mistakes;
  • Errors in judgment;
  • Needless risk taking;
  • Disregard for safety; and
  • Extended lunch periods and early departures.


  • Frequent financial problems;
  • Avoidance of friends and colleagues;
  • Blaming others for own problems and shortcomings;
  • Complaints about problems at home;
  • Deterioration in personal appearance; and
  • Complaints and excuses of vaguely defined illnesses.

So, the best way is to talk to the person before making any assumptions about them. In this way, you can get to the facts instead of making vague assumptions.

An Addicted Person Needs Your Help

Employers need to play their part to help employees with a substance abuse problem. Employers need to promote a culture of support and understanding around addiction. If an employee is suffering from an addiction, the employer can assist them by providing them with structured support. Every employee in a managerial role should have some kind of training around addiction and how to discuss this topic with an employee.

How can you help them?

It is very difficult to quit addiction even after knowing its side effects. You have to keep yourself, patient, even if the person is not ready to seek help. In such situations, what you can do is help them try to minimize the side effects of addiction. Tell them that support is available to them; this might make them feel a bit relaxed. Find out what triggers them to use drugs, and then try to avoid those. Work closely with the rehabilitation facilities to understand how to support the employee in recovery.

Workplace Policies and Drug Testing

Employers can implement a drug-free workplace initiative with written substance abuse policies. A comprehensive substance abuse policy may include:

  • Purpose and objectives of the program.
  • Definition of substance abuse.
  • Who is covered by the policy and/or program.
  • Under what circumstances will drug or alcohol testing be conducted.
  • Employee rights to confidentiality
  • Educational opportunities for employees about substance abuse (e.g. a substance-free awareness program).
  • Employee and supervisor training in identifying impaired behavior and other signs of substance abuse.
  • Outline of how to deal with impaired workers.
  • Provisions for assisting chronic substance abusers.
  • Possible disciplinary actions.

It is essential that employers be aware of patient/employee substance abuse confidentiality rules. Employers need to emphasize that employees can seek treatment with the assurance that their privacy and confidentiality will be protected. Rehabilitation as the first legal obligation therefore needs to be beneficial to both employers and employees and requires careful evaluation by employers and treatment centre.

Workplace Solutions for Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse

  • Implement drug-free workplace and other written substance abuse policies.
  • Publicize drug-free workplace policies and reiterate that use of alcohol or drugs is never permitted in the workplace.
  • Communicate information about the health risks of alcohol and drug use through company websites and health and wellness initiatives.
  • Educate employees about the health and productivity hazards of drinking excessively and using illicit substances through company wellness programs, Employee Assistance Programs and Work/Life programs.
  • Incorporate substance abuse information in workplace wellness strategies, such as learning about good nutrition, exercise, seat belt use, etc.
  • Offer health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance use disorders, including aftercare and counseling.
  • Ensure that company wellness programs, Employee Assistance Programs and Work/Life programs provide education, screening and follow-up services for employees’ drug and alcohol problems.
  • Respect employees’ privacy. Employers may not know who among their employees is in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse. If company officials have this information, however, they must recognize and appreciate the delicate balance between wanting to help, and respecting an employee’s need and desire for privacy.

The Role of ARCA Program

Support services like ARCA are the perfect option to enable an addicted person to get rid of their addiction. In South Africa, ARCA is helping employers greatly to understand and handle such addiction problems. In this way, they construct a plan that is good for all interested parties.

Individuals who receive treatment for addiction have:

  • Better long-term outcomes,
  • Improved long-term health,
  • Reduced relapse, and
  • Improved family and other relationships.

ARCA’s cost-effective detox treatment program has so many unique benefits which make it the perfect choice for those looking to get rid of their drug use and get their life back for good.