‘High on Life’: India Inc’s drug woes

Blog ImageA recent Bollywood movie – Udta Punjab portrayed the grim reality of drug addiction in India’s North West province. The drug-themed crime thriller depicted the scary reality of drugs. A recent report by AIIMS concluded that 230,000 drug addicts live in Punjab, a state home to 30 million people, with more than 800,000 drug users. Heroin, the study found, is the most widely used opiate: 75,000 people inject the drug.

The film was plagued by controversy; however I for one feel, Udta Punjab has brought into the limelight the problem of drug abuse not only in Punjab – but across our country.

A recent United Nations Drug Report pointed to India as one of the biggest consumers of heroin. Cocaine is another favourite amongst individuals in the age group of 25 to 34. Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs by employees, followed by cocaine. In India alone, about 3 million people are dependent on drugs (that’s about approximately 0.3% of our population).

What is frightening, seeing all this is, that an employer today cannot avoid hiring drug users, it could be unknowingly, but it is real. You, me, we all could be sharing our workplace with a functional drug addict, who knows? After all, recruitment is done from the general populace of the country.

A recent case of Satyan (name changed), 35, who was a call centre employee, lost his job because of his addiction. “Those were difficult days. I got into drugs during my 20s. I come from a humble background. My parents have always been supportive, but it was under peer pressure that I got into drugs”.
What if we told you it can be avoided? Avoided by one simple step – by conducting a pre or post employment drug screening.

Why are drug tests important?

• Drug users are more prone to accidents
• To improve worker safety and health
• To avoid workplace hazards
• Prevent employee theft and absenteeism
• Drugs hamper employee productivity
• Drug users are a big threat to organisations dealing with sensitive data
• Possibilities of drug pedalling in the workplace
• Psychological implications on the user and co-workers
• Unpredictability in the form of violence that comes with drug use

Increasing number of companies are screening job applicants and existing employees for substance abuse. An employee addicted to Class-A drugs or even a ‘transitional drug’ such as marijuana would show an innate lack of productivity and focus. He/she would be disoriented and dazed. It leads to an unusual level of absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft and low employee morale and to an increase in the liabilities and compensation costs for the employer company.

So what happens if the candidate tests positive for substance abuse?
In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, states that drug (236 substances banned under NDPS) sale, possession and consumption of any amount are criminal offenses. The punishment under this Act varies according to the amount of the breach:-

• <1kg means an imprisonment of up to 6 months or a fine of INR 10,000 or both

• more than 1kg but less than commercial quantity spells an imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or a fine of INR 1 Lakh (approx. 1500 USD).

• If the contravention is found to be in a commercial quantity, the candidate would face 1-2 years of imprisonment & a fine of INR 1-2 Lakhs (approx. 1500 – 2300 USD)

Employing drug testing in your employment background screening would be immensely beneficial to all employees and employers alike, as it would promote a healthy and drug-free organization. Moreover, it helps combat and eventually avoid the huge time and productivity loss encumbered by the risk.

Prevention, as it has always been, is better than cure.

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