Time for Unions to Modernize Workplace Drug Use Policies (by Byron Wood).

Updated: Jun 13

People use psychoactive drugs for a variety of reasons- to treat medical conditions, to stay alert, relax, socialize, to cope with pain, stress or other problems and for personal enjoyment. The most commonly used psychoactive substances are prescription medications, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis.¹ One in five Canadians experience a Substance Use Disorder at some point in their lifetime.¹ Most people don’t need treatment to overcome their substance use problems, but if they do, they achieve better outcomes if they are provided with individualized treatment options tailored to their unique needs and preferences.² If a person’s substance use problem impacts the workplace, some employers and unions have programs in place that are intended to support the worker as well as to ensure a safe workplace. However, these workplace programs in BC are deeply flawed.³ In 2018 the Hospital Employees Union, which represents 46,000 hospital workers and health care specialists in BC, filed a grievance against the Interior Health Authority (IHA), alleging that their substance use policy discriminates against union members under the Collective Agreement and under the BC Human Rights Code. As a result an Arbitrator ordered IHA to suspend their drug policy and completely overhaul it.⁴ In 2019 the BC Nurses Union co-authored a report calling for an overhaul of the substance use policies for nurses. They found that there was a serious disparity between what is considered best practice in the clinical management of substance use disorders and the treatment and care pathways that nurses are allowed to access. They found that nurses are prohibi