Most supervisors in the United States and beyond are not governed by U.S. Department of Transportation regulations in travel related safety sensitive positions, and therefore they do not require the lengthy two-hour alcohol and drug awareness training mandated by the DOT. They need a non-DOT supervisor training program of a shorter length, and can learn all they need to know from it.
Training DOT or non-DOT supervisors, however, is similar. It is only the length of time the training takes that remains different.
As a side note, DOT Drug and Alcohol Awareness training does not include information about trucks and transportation at all. The purpose of the training is to educate supervisors about substance abuse awareness and major drug classifications to prepare them for a more effective role in spotting drug and alcohol abuse by employees on the job, and then pulling them “off the line” in order to refer the employee to testing, which most often is a urine screen/test.
Help Non-DOT Supervisors Get the Disease Right
Alcoholism or Drug Addiction (often appropriately used interchangeably) is always first to be treated in the presence of other personal problems. Start early in your presentation to help supervisors understand this key concept of addictive disease, and that personal problems don’t cause drinking problems, but the other way around.
You are not teaching diagnostic skills with this educational thrust – instead you are reversing it. Failure to succeed in this educational task will cause you to have most supervisors wandering out of your presentation with the same undisturbed myths and misconceptions that they had when they arrived. This translates to increased risk in the organization.
Many primary health problems and personal problems that people experience are the direct results of the true problem–addiction. Personal problems may be distinct, but they only exacerbate the addiction and make it worse. That’s their contribution and not causation. Some of your non-DOT supervisors may sit in your classroom in disbelief over this fact.
Non-DOT Supervisors Will Buy In with a Bit of Discussion
Supervisors normally become aware of a variety of personal problems long before obvious alcohol or drug problems are observed. This is why you want to spend a bit of time on this chicken-egg concept.
These are often symptoms of the alcohol or drug problem, but are mistakenly believed to be causes rather than symptoms.
One of the most popular misconceptions is that alcoholism is caused by stress. Example: “Hey, you would drink too if your wife left you for another man.” The next step for this individual is an evaluation to rule out acute chronic alcoholism. Non-alcoholic drinkers could not use alcohol “successfully” in this way to feel better about such a problem. It simply would not work.
Supervisors may avoid referring employees to an employee assistance program if they attempt to determine the nature of personal problems interfering with job performance. Focusing on personal problems leads to discussion and possible solutions — often the wrong ones.
Alcoholism, drug addictions, and addictive disease are generally interchangeable terms. Why? Addiction is a very blended thing these days. It is not like 1935 where a ton of different street drugs were available to addicts. Many alcoholics have used other drugs, legally prescribed or not, that are addictive. Addictive disease or chemical dependency are terms used to help the public understand that any mood altering substance is off bounds for those recovering from addictive disease. This fact will cause a few loud gasps and perhaps even prompt and argument or two.
Addiction is a disease process and it is primary. Patients are therefore taught to manage their disease in order to prevent relapse in the same way diabetics are taught to manage their illness. Use of alcohol or drugs begins with experimentation or peer pressure for almost any drinker. Physiologic susceptibility determines from that point the progression of the disease. But other factors can influence severity and course of the disease.
Alcoholism was designated as a disease in 1957 by the American Medical Association. Alcoholism designated a disease in 1956 by the World Health Organization. Research demonstrates most people believe alcoholism (addiction) to be a disease, however, this belief does not contribute easily to self-diagnosis because of denial.
Most people attempt to define alcoholism by behaviors (how much one drinks, when, or what they drink, and their physical appearance). Unwittingly, most people do not know that some occupations are characterized by more frequent opportunity to use alcohol socially or without observation. This “taxing one’s susceptibility” in these job settings will cause the onset of the illness sooner and more acutely.
This is why higher rates of alcoholism can be expected in workforces that are predominantly male, or positions such as traveling sale forces. Did you know that nurses have a higher rate of addiction than other professions, and that after-hours consumption of alcohol is a contributing factor in addition to predisposed biogenic susceptibility from parent to child? The opportunity to tax one’s susceptibility increases risk and the speed of onset.
Supervisors should also be aware of the impact of myths. Myths tend to help maintaining stigma, and this contributes to avoiding EAP self-referral; blame and anger at addict, believing an employee should be terminated rather than helped, belief that is too late to help an employee (i.e.. “I don’t want to refer this employee, I want him fired!”) These attitudes by supervisors must be correct by education in order to preserve human resources.
Moralistic views of addicts inhibit their self-referral and increase stigma. The most common misconceptions are “willpower shortcomings” and “psychological explanations.” Both fuel denial in anyone with the disease.
Personal experience with alcoholism or addiction in your family contributes to beliefs about the illness, its treat-ability, and its cause. Supervisors should understand that it difficult to change, even in face of facts and overwhelming research.
Insurance pays for medical problems. That’s why company insurance policies pay for treatment. That’s why state governments usually require insurance companies to pay for alcoholism and drug addiction treatment in order to be licensed.
Alcoholism is a disease caused by consuming alcohol when there exists an inherited brain and liver chemistry that is without resistance to ethanol tolerance and abnormal metabolizing of alcohol.