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An organization's philosophy concerning alcohol and drugs sets the tone for its drug-free workplace policy and program. Some organizations focus on detection, apprehension and discharge and apply a strong law enforcement model that treats employees who use drugs as criminals. Other organizations focus on performance and emphasize deterrence and assistance, because they view alcohol and drug use as causing impairment of otherwise capable employees. The most effective drug-free workplace programs strike a balance between these two philosophies. They send a strong clear message and, at the same time, encourage employees to seek assistance if they are struggling with alcohol or drug problems.


The following are some philosophies and practices that can undermine the effectiveness of drug-free workplace programs:

  • Focusing only on illicit drug use and failing to include alcohol-the number one drug of abuse in our society
  • Accepting drug use and alcohol abuse as part of modern life and a cost of doing business
  • Over reliance on drug testing
  • Focusing on termination of users rather than rehabilitation
  • Reluctance of supervisors to confront employees on the basis of poor performance
  • Reinforcing an individual's denial regarding the impact of his or her alcohol and drug use
  • Restricting benefits and/or access to treatment of alcoholism and addiction
  • Allowing insurers to restrict access to treatment programs

The characteristic common to all effective drug-free workplace programs is balance. A successful drug-free workplace program must strike a delicate balance between a number of sometimes competing elements, including:

  • The rights of employees and the rights of employers
  • The need to know and rights to privacy
  • Detection and rehabilitation
  • Respect for employees and the safety of all

Developing an effective program that strikes the right balance can be challenging. To help, organizations are strongly encouraged to:

  • Research what other similar organizations are doing and resources available
  • Collaborate and cooperate with workers
  • Assess the current situation and determine any special needs
  • Determine whether any state or Federal laws apply


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