One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she’s ten feet tall
Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”
What if you could instantly improve your health or that of your employees by doing nothing? I have seen it done — over and over.
The principle is simple: Success is equal parts engaging in positive behaviors and, just as important, avoiding negative behaviors.
This article focuses on consciously avoiding or at least limiting certain negative behaviors. Avoiding or controlling these five things — food choices, pills, alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco — will transform your body, brain, and workplace instantly.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHO ARE YOU — AN ABSTAINER OR A MODERATOR?
Before understanding your unique relationship with the five substances discussed below, it is important to understand who you are.
You’re a moderator if you…
– find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you…
– have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits
Play to your strength. If you are a moderator, enjoy some of the substances discussed below from time to time. However, if you decide that you are an abstainer, consider steering clear of starting something you may not be able to stop. For me, one donut usually equals three donuts. Know what I mean?
BREAKING BAD: WHAT PROCESSED FOOD AND CRACK HAVE IN COMMON
Have you ever had a friend or loved one struggle with sugar cravings? In his article, “Sugar Addiction: Is it Real?”, Dr. Phil Maffetone poses important questions to ask:
- Why is it so difficult for so many people to even consider giving up sugar and sugar-containing foods, and refined carbohydrates?
- Do you observe this in others?
- Do you react to eating sugary foods by getting sleepy, moody, or losing concentration?
- When you avoid sugar or don’t eat it, do you experience cravings or uneasiness with strong desires to eat more?
- Do you tend to eat sugary foods even though you know you shouldn’t, and feel you should better control yourself?
Dr. Maffetone goes on to note that these questions about addiction are similar to indications of drug addiction, and the reason researchers and clinicians see an overlap between sweets and drugs. The cycle is perpetuated with the feeling of withdrawal when the drug, or sugar, is not available, followed by the urge to abuse the drug (sugar) again.
He concludes with a striking observation: “Sugar may also be a primary issue in those with other “secondary” addictions. In this case, treating the sugar problem—getting a person off the white stuff—might be the first step in eliminating other substances such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or so-called harder drugs like heroin and cocaine.”
So, if personal health is your objective, or if you desire healthier employees and reduced healthcare and workers compensation costs, think twice this Friday about bringing in that baker’s dozen of donuts, bagels, or other junk food. Or, start improving by switching to every other Friday (if you are a moderator).
Bottom line: get off the sugar crack, educate yourself about the downside of processed food, and you will be rewarded almost immediately.
I know the addictive nature of tobacco. I started “chewing” Copenhagen back in my baseball playing days and the habit followed me for years.
It is easy to say “stop using tobacco, it’s bad for you.” Everyone knows this obvious truth. Instead, follow the lead of companies like Bourque Law Firm client Able Engineering and institute a policy that bans the use of this deadly substance. When first enacted, Able gave workers six months to quit smoking and using tobacco products. Coupled with its wellness program, Able’s policy has been a huge success: Since 2010 it has seen a 66% reduction in healthcare spend for employees.
By implementing a non-tobacco policy, your company will instantly have healthier, more productive employees. Even better, you will be a major catalyst in saving lives and sparing workers from the devastation of lung cancer and the parade of other horribles that accompanies smoking. Talk about a win-win.
Sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills. Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers. As a consequence, the rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013.
America, we have a problem. And to believe it is not having adverse effects on your workplace is naïve. Instead of sitting back and suffering the obvious and hidden effects of prescription drug abuse:
- Implement an effective prescription drug use policy within your overall drug and alcohol policy [see “Draft Policy” below for a sample policy]
- Educate employees and encourage them to come forward and address any issues
- Train supervisors and management on, among other things, your workplace policy for prescription drug use and understanding potential signs of impairment
- Have a solid employee assistance program
Hopefully you will never find yourself in a room with four lawyers. But if you do, on average one of the four, if they are males, is an alcoholic.
Various factors drive lawyers, and Americans, to drink. As for the latter, we are drinking ourselves to death at record rates: In 2014, deaths from alcohol-induced causes increased 37 percent from 2002.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Cultivate good habits, evaluate your bad habits, and check-in with friends and discuss how they and you are coping with life’s stresses and substances. Do not ignore the obvious. Equally so, do not permit yourself to be ignorant of the less obvious markers of alcohol abuse.
Times have changed. Marijuana is suddenly “OK” in many circles. Near my kids’ school, there is a massive “Dr. Marijuana” sign that we pass daily on the ride in.
In Arizona, an employer can be sued for firing an employee who tests positive for marijuana if the employee has a medical marijuana card.
Let us not fool ourselves. Like pills and alcohol, marijuana is a serious drug. Whether it becomes fully legalized in Arizona or elsewhere, it should be treated as such.
Many people take better care of their cars than of their bodies. None of us is perfect. However, we can all improve each day by (1) understanding the effect of the substances we put in our mouths and (2) making better choices given this knowledge. I wish you all success on your personal journey.
Art Bourque has guided businesses and individuals for 25 years on implementing substance abuse and wellness policies, training supervisors and employees, and on alcohol and drug issues, including prevention and testing. Contact Mr. Bourque with any questions concerning this article.
Here is Mr. Bourque’s favorite ever skit on drugs, by the great George Carlin — enjoy:
DRAFT DRUG PRESCRIPTION POLICY
It is a violation of our Drug-Free Workplace Policy to use, possess, sell, trade, and/or offer for sale alcohol, illegal drugs, or intoxicants. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are not prohibited when taken in standard dosage and/or according to a physician’s prescription. Any employee taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications will be responsible for consulting the prescribing physician and/or pharmacist to ascertain whether the medication may interfere with the safe performance of his/her job. If the use of a medication could compromise the safety of the employee, fellow employees, or the public, it is the employee’s responsibility to use appropriate personnel procedures (e.g., call in sick, use leave, request change of duty, notify supervisor, notify company doctor) to avoid unsafe workplace practices. The illegal or unauthorized use of prescription drugs is prohibited. It is a violation of our drug-free workplace policy to intentionally misuse and/or abuse prescription medications. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if job performance deteriorates and/or incidents occur.