Alcohol and Employee Health: Sobering Facts
Alcohol may be legal, but it’s still a dangerous drug. Here are some facts about the effects of alcohol in the workplace.
For some, alcohol is not a problem–it’s just a way to relax and socialize. But for others,alcohol is a major, even life-threatening, problem. That’s because alcohol is a powerful and potentially addictive drug as well as a contributing factor to a variety of diseases. What’s more, used on the job, alcohol is responsible for countless accidents and injuries. The frightening news is that on any given workday, as many as 1 in 10 American employees are working under the influence. Some of them probably work for you.
To promote a healthier, safer workforce, it makes sense to educate employees about alcohol and its dangers, as well how to get help for an abuse problem. And, because April is Alcohol Awareness Month, what better time to provide some awareness training?
Make sure your workers understand the health risks. Health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption include:
- Enlarged liver and a disease known as cirrhosis, which can eventually be fatal
- High blood pressure and damage to the heart
- Gastrointestinal problems, including ulcers and internal bleeding
- Nutritional deficiencies, memory and sleep problems, and sometimes seizures
- Certain cancers, such as cancer of the throat and esophagus
- Gynecological and sexual problems
- Inflammation of the pancreas, causing pain, nausea, and other symptoms
- Mental illness
How can employees recognize an alcohol problem? Possible signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Poor concentration and coordination
- Slow mental and physical reflexes
- Letting responsibilities slide
- Impaired judgment or decision making
- Forgetfulness and carelessness
- Mood swings
- Loud, aggressive, or violent behavior after drinking
Other symptoms include:
- Drinking alone or to get drunk
- Arguing with others about drinking
- Drinking in the morning, before work, or before driving
- Drinking to solve problems
- Using alcohol as medication
- Avoiding friends or family while drinking
What’s the next step?
Alcoholism is a disease and a very serious one. But the good news is that harmful effects can be reversed if treated in time. The only way for an alcoholic to recover is to stop drinking completely. The first step is to recognize the problem and seek help. Treatment may be inpatient or outpatient, depending on whether medical supervision is needed.
Withdrawal symptoms are temporary and may include anxiety, nausea, and insomnia. Detoxification is followed by a rehabilitation program that consists of counseling, lectures, medical care, and different kinds of therapy. Family involvement in rehabilitation is often very helpful. There are many resources for alcohol abuse treatment, including:
- Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which are listed in the telephone book.
- Community resources such as your local medical center and doctors.
- If treatment is available through your employee assistance program (EAP), explain the procedure for getting help.
Why It Matters…
- More than two-thirds of Americans-including many teenagers–drink alcohol.
- A significant percentage of those people abuse alcohol, drinking too much and too often.
- Alcohol abuse affects not only the drinker’s physical and mental health, but also safety on the job and on the road, family and friends, and often financial security.
- Awareness of the problem and of treatment options are the first steps to a healthier, more productive life.