Meth in the Workplace

By Joyce Beaverton, Addiction Counselor

Methamphetamine, meth, or crystal meth is a dangerous, illegal drug that over stimulates some parts of the brain, hurting brain cells that affect emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. It is a potent central nervous system stimulant that can be harmfully addictive. Meth is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world.

Methamphetamines were first used in the 1930s when they were put into several medications to help with sinus problems. Sometime later, it was known to be in prescription medications to treat certain disorders, such as ADHD. Then, during World War II, Hitler used the drug on his troops. Some countries still give meth to their military to help them be alert and ready for action. Around the world, people were using the drug for their benefit. Girls used it to control their weight, athletes wanted a performance enhancer, and teens used them to get high. By the 1960s, recreational meth use was getting out of control, so a new law eliminated some of the drugs from the shelves and prevented doctors from prescribing them frequently. By the 70s, the government expressly prohibited the sale of the drug. However, meth became prevalent on the black market and people started creating Meth labs to make a homemade version of the dangerous drug. Meth can be taken by mouth or it can be injected, and a person can quickly get addicted. It is an upper and the effects of the drug can keep users awake for days. It can also cause high blood pressure, respiratory difficulties, an increased heart rate, or even death. Drug use in an individual hurts everyone involved, including family members, friends, and co-workers. Each year, the number of people using meth continues to rise, making it one of the fastest growing drug epidemics in the United States.

Unfortunately, the use of methamphetamines has become a serious problem in the workplace. People using meth at work usually begin innocently. They are working long hours and are under a lot of stress, so they want to improve concentration, enhance performance, or even alleviate boredom. They might just put a little into their coffee or soda in the morning before leaving for work. Meth is very misleading because at first, it does help with all the things that you need to be a successful employee. It might make people feel super human. But in the long run, the effects of the drug will just do the opposite. It will decrease job performance and the employee will eventually be at a great risk of losing his/her job. In addition, drug trafficking is a serious problem in the workplace. People are beginning to sell it while at work to get extra money. They might encounter co-workers in the stair wells, in the restroom, in the parking lot, or in the lounge and offer them drugs. The cost of obtaining meth is not high. Individuals can sometimes purchase it for less than $20.

The use of methamphetamines in the workplace is costing employers millions of dollars each year. A meth-addled employee does not show up for work, there is an increased level of theft, there are more accidents, and healthcare premiums rise. On the job violence also increases. A user can get physical and abusive. They also become experts in stealing someone's identity so fraud becomes an issue as well. Crystal methamphetamine addiction causes more harm to the brain than other drugs; therefore, it can trigger mental illness. Because of this problem, many employers now have mandatory drug testing before hiring an employee. People who have a meth problem usually cannot keep a job and they have several arrests on drug charges, so employers are reluctant to hire.

There are a few signs that can indicate to an employer someone has crystal meth addiction:

  • Aggression- The worker might get violent because he/she has a feeling of hostility.
  • Changes in mood- The employee could end up being ill-tempered, and his/her mood can shift from from nice to argumentative for no apparent reason.
  • Body odor- He/she might smell like the drug.
  • Bad hygiene- Because they are high, users often ignore personal grooming habits.
  • Sudden weight loss- They do not remember to eat or have no appetite.
  • Withdrawal- They are reserved and separate from friends and co-workers.
  • Changes in speech patterns- They talk faster, sometimes with a shaky voice.
  • Weird eyes- Pupils might be dilated.
  • Agitated- They are hyper and overexcited.
  • Sudden financial problems- They might always seem to need money.

However, employers need to be careful not to falsely accuse their staff because these signs do not always prove that drug use is involved. Yet, it is helpful to be aware of the signs, so employers can get involved if needed. If an employer suspects that their employee has a crystal methamphetamine addiction, it can be hard for them to know how to proceed. They should never attempt to diagnose the problem. If it is severely influencing their job performance, then intervention is needed. Many times when an employee is caught using crystal meth, they will be fired on the spot. However, sometimes drug treatment is be offered by employers, especially if they come forward on their own and admit their crystal methamphetamine addiction. The most difficult part is going to be getting the employee to admit that they have a drug problem. Once they problem is recognized, then most employers offer support and help in getting drug treatment. Individuals with drug addiction hardly ever get better without assistance from outside sources, such as court orders.

Physicians are constantly researching ways to cure crystal meth addiction. In the last few years, there has been a considerable increase in the number of drug rehab centers. Each center has different ways of helping people with crystal meth addiction. Many programs are six months long. Probably the most successful treatment is detox regime followed by a an extended stay in a treatment program. Meth addiction treatment must also tackle the problem of the psychological and physical consequences that the drug can have on a person. They will need counseling and lots of support.

Together, companies are looking for ways to reduce meth use in the workplace. To manage this problem, employers are now looking to educate employees on the dangers of drugs. They also regularly perform drug tests on employees and sometimes help those who need treatment. Companies cannot ignore the problems of meth addiction in the workplace. Those individuals need help so they can try to rebuild their lives.

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