Walters State Community College’s Center for Workforce Education invites area employers to a special seminar, “The Effects of Drug Abuse on Tennessee’s Workforce,” at 10 a.m. on Sept. 18. The workshop is free and will be held in the CWE, located in room 110 of the Clifford H. “Bo” Henry Center for Business and Technology on the Morristown campus.
While media reports and day-to-day life have made area residents aware of a drug abuse epidemic in this area, employers may be unaware of the effects both legal and illegal drugs are having in the workplace.
Charlie Williams, director of the Walters State’s emergency medical technology program and assistant professor of emergency medical technology at the college, brings a perspective combining his experience in the medical field with years spent in manufacturing and as a supervisor.
“It can be very subtle, but eventually most employers will have to deal with the problem of drug abuse during the work day. Many employers have a concern but don’t know how to handle it. This seminar will help,” Williams said.
Williams stressed that stereotypes don’t exist when it comes to drug abuse. Drug abuse is found in every segment of society – from low skill or low wage jobs to the highest professions.
“Drug abuse is happening in every segment of society and, therefore, every segment of the workplace,” Williams said.
W h i l e methamphetamine and crack, a form of cocaine, may dominate the headlines, Williams said a centuries-old favorite is likely the most common drug used at work: alcohol.
“Alcohol is very accessible, and many alcoholics do not consider themselves in the same category as a drug abuser. Bosses may not consider alcohol a drug, either, but statistics show its use causes a significant loss of productivity,” Williams said. Many people still go out to a vehicle during lunch and drink some whiskey or a beer and some are even bold enough to keep it in a locker, Williams said.
One reason alcohol is so possible is that many people have used it so long, they can sometimes hide the abuse. Someone taking meth or crack will eventually reach a point where they can no longer work, and they no longer want or care about earning a living, according to Williams.
Williams said it can be very easy for a hardworker with a good job succumb to the lures of drugs. For most, an addiction follows a simple experimentation.
“Meth, much like cocaine, gives the highest high the first time it is used. Addicts spend the rest of their lives trying to get that identical feeling again but it never happens,” Williams said.
Williams places prescription pain pills as one of the more popular drugs abused at work. Like alcohol, many abusers at least think they are good at hiding the problem. Williams said that as tolerance builds and more pills are taken, the addiction becomes obvious.
Williams added that many employers know that some employees legitimately need and properly use prescription painkillers.
“Most of those people are not abusers. But they do need to be aware of the danger of developing an addiction and also be willing to say ‘I am hurting so much that an over-thecounter pain medicine will not help. How will this prescription medicine affect my work?”
Williams will also talk about the symptoms of drug abuse as well as detail possible results when employees work while using legal or illegal drugs.
To make reservations to for attend the seminar or more information, contact Connie O’Vercum, director of the Center for Workforce Education at 423-318-2341.