We all know that drug addiction in the workplace is one of the worst and potentially devastating problems your company can encounter.
It is not easy to spot drug addicts among the staff, as most of the time drug users are extremely good at hiding their habits.
However, here is a selection of examples where drug users were not quite as successful in hiding those habits…
Story #1: Drug Trading Desks
Back in the 1980s, some of New York’s Wall Street companies tolerated managers and traders who spent time and money on client parties. Those events often had plenty of alcohol and drugs going around.
One such trading firm was so fond of hosting these parties that they hired their favourite drug dealer as an office assistant. They even gave him a desk of his own to work from. That made it convenient for him to reach his customers within the company.
He remained there for so long, he eventually learned to work as a financial trader and was promoted as head of the trading desk. It gave him more clout and power to conduct his illegal drug business undercover, causing more potential harm to the employees around him. It made drug addiction a part of their workplace.
This sort of office culture can also bleed over to the rest of the industry for years to come.
In 2007, a centuries-old British multinational investment company had a young banker who was caught selling cocaine straight from his desk within the firm’s offices in Basingstoke, Hampshire. He was sentenced to at least seven years in prison. His arrest also contributed to the tarnishing of the old firm’s prestigious image.
Story #2: Breaking Bad on Recess
You would think a high school administration would be an expert judge of character, especially when hiring faculty. Alas, no one can expertly spot drug addiction each time.
In 2017, students of an Indiana high school caught their English teacher sniffing cocaine in an empty classroom during a mid-morning break. She had locked the door behind her. But her students were able to peek through the classroom windows and saw everything. (One of them even took a video of it all with his phone. It promptly went viral.)
The children reported her to the administrators, who called the police. They arrested the teacher on that same day for possession of illegal drugs. Her story made the news across different newspapers and TV channels across the United States. The school’s administrators were forced to deal with the press attention while finding a replacement.
Story #3: The Portable Loo of Death
It can be a huge task to create a comprehensive drug safety program for your company. But like it or not, if you don’t find the time and budget, you may find a much bigger problem waiting for you. At times, in very unexpected places.
The owner of a commercial painting services company in Spencerport, New York found this out the hard way. In 2017, he was shocked and embarrassed when the body of one of his employees was discovered inside a portable loo at a client’s job site. The man had died of a heroin overdose.
We have no word on what happened to the company. But we can safely assume that the incident cast some doubt in the client’s mind. Was this a business safe to deal with, if they could not be certain about their employees?
Story #4: The Fresh P-Pimp
Sometimes, employees will find crafty (and smelly) ways to hide their addiction.
At one Canadian construction company, the human resources department began receiving complaints about a male employee whose desk stank like a toilet. His workmates accused him of keeping a collection of urine inside his desk drawers. When the managers had his desk examined, investigators indeed found about 30 bottles of the stinky liquid stored in it.
They also discovered he was selling the bottled urine to other company employees.
What for, you ask?
As it turned out, some of his fellow employees were drug addicts trying to evade the company’s regular drug tests. So they purchased these bottles to pass off other people’s urine samples as their own.
This need was significant enough that it had blossomed into a brisk trade. Right inside the company’s office. Beware of smelly desks.
Story #5: A Drug Ring of His Own
In the early 2010s, a famous online Canadian-American media company (known for covering news on the “underground” drug culture) liked hiring people who seemed tolerant of drug addiction and drug trade, even if it came into their workplace.
One of these people was a senior editor who eventually became an aspiring international drug dealer.
From 2014 to 2015, the man would side-hustle cocaine and use the media company’s Canadian headquarters to recruit his drug mules from among its young interns. He would befriend them, then persuade them to smuggle goods for him in different places across Canada, the United States, and beyond. He hoped to create his own little international cocaine-smuggling ring and connect it to a Mexican drug cartel.
This created a toxic working atmosphere. Young employees were too afraid to report the editor’s actions to management because they knew the man had an overwhelming amount of influence within the company. He could have jeopardised their jobs.
But the whole setup abruptly went public in December 2015.
Border control authorities at Sydney International Airport caught five of the editor’s young “couriers.” They were hiding cocaine worth about US$5.1 to US$6.6 million inside the lining of their luggage.
Word of the arrests and investigation swiftly reached the media company’s management, and they fired the editor by February 2016.
The company also had to issue public statements explaining themselves, disavowing all suspected support for their former editor and the office culture he fostered. Canadian police finally arrested the editor in 2019. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
How to prevent drug-related incidents at your workplace
The dangers of drug abuse among staff are very real. It can happen in literally every industry and profession.
So what is the best way to deal with possible drug addiction in your workplace? Your best defence is to be proactive and prepared. You must have a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy and program in place as early as possible.
As the examples show, you simply don’t want to wait for signs of problems. By the time a drug issue at work becomes visible, it is usually well established and too late.
If you are located anywhere in Australia, feel free to get in touch with us for a strictly confidential discussion on how we can best help your organisation.