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Do mind-altering substances have an effect on the productiveness of your workers? Right here's what science says.

20, 2020

5 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the organizational environment and blur the lines between work and life, many people have looked for ways to reduce and reduce stress. In trying to find a source of therapeutic relief, some have turned to exercising, crafting, and even baking. However, others have resorted to alternative coping methods, choosing not to bake, but to be baked.

Recent research suggests that substance use has been on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic. A study conducted during the pandemic found that one in four American respondents said they used drugs or alcohol to manage anxiety and stress. In a survey of adults in the UK, almost half (48%) said they had used more alcohol, while 44% of cannabis users said they had used more drugs since the pandemic began. Organizations are likely to be concerned about these statistics given the increasing difficulty in monitoring and controlling employees who work remotely.

Related: Sex, Drugs, and Rock & # 39; n & # 39; Roll in the time of the coronavirus

Even before the pandemic, concerns about the use of substances in the workplace have increased as more states have decriminalized and even legalized the possession and use of mind-altering substances. For example, in the past decade, the number of states legalizing marijuana has grown significantly. Currently, one in three Americans lives in a state that has legalized recreational cannabis. Last year Denver became the first city in the US to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. Most recently, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the use of “hard” drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

As the following evidence shows, managers and employees have a vested interest in understanding the impact mind-altering substances can have on work-related outcomes. Although there are a few exceptions, there is general consensus that substance use can affect employee career potential and productivity.

"Yeah, well, you know, that's just your opinion man."

Contrary to what Jeff Lebowski might say, research shows that frequent and heavy use of mind-altering substances, both before and during employment, can have detrimental work-related effects. For example, research suggests that frequent alcohol consumption in college may affect students' ability to find employment after graduation, as excess alcohol can affect academic responsibility and the job search process. Once used, frequent heavy episodic drinking is associated with increased absenteeism and decreased performance. Likewise, the use of illegal substances (e.g. cocaine, amphetamines) can lead to poor work adaptation, decreased productivity and an increased likelihood of workplace injuries.

Immerse yourself in the weeds

Okay, the general consensus seems to be that regular bombing can have a detrimental effect on your career and work productivity. Not too surprising. But are there any exceptions?


Some researchers wonder if cannabis use would have the same negative work-related effects as other substances. Questions about the effects of marijuana in the workplace have increased over the years as the acceptance of cannabis for recreational and medicinal use has increased. Supporting the idea that cannabis may not be as detrimental to employee productivity as other mind-altering substances, studies show that the effects of cannabis tend to resolve more quickly and cause fewer side effects compared to other substances.

Related: A favorite employee tests positive for drugs. What now?

Does this mean that cannabis users just have to worry about eating too many snacks during their lunch break? Not quite. Like many other mind-altering substances, cannabis use causes immediate physiological and psychological effects that can impair the ability to perform well at work. Cannabis use temporarily impairs emotional regulation and the functioning of higher-order cognitive processes such as working memory, self-control and planning. It can also impair motor skills, which leads to shortened reaction times and perceptual motor coordination. For these reasons, research has generally shown that increased cannabis use leads to decreased productivity and difficulty adapting to the work environment.

Could it not be about the "if" but rather the "when"?

Given that the mind-altering properties of cannabis are usually relatively mild and short-lived, recent research suggests that whether its use causes problems at work may be a matter of timing. In particular, a recent study examined the effects of cannabis use before, during and after work on a range of employee work behaviors. The results suggest that employees who use cannabis before and during work hours are less responsive to the needs of others, behave more counterproductively, and generally perform their work tasks below average. However, after-work cannabis use had no effect on employee performance or behavior at work.

Of course, this does not mean that you should light up after work is done. Many companies continue to have zero tolerance policies for drug use and the long-term effects of chronic marijuana use are still unclear. However, this means that, unlike other substances that have clearly deleterious work-related consequences, the effects of cannabis use on employee work behavior may be a matter of timing rather than case. In other words, for those who are cannabis-prone, the question is whether you will wait until after work to pamper yourself. Current research suggests that, as David Wooderson said, "it would be a lot cooler if you did."

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