The high rates of professionals with substance abuse disorders are not limited to the US. Although doctors, lawyers, anesthesiologists and pilots have higher rates of addiction than others, it is also not limited to these professions.
This was evident last week when several employees at Apple’s European headquarters were found to be using drugs like cocaine and marijuana while at work. The headquarters in Cork, Ireland were swept by drug sniffing dogs after upper management got wind of rumors that staff were using drugs on site. The sweep turned up cocaine and marijuana at 14 workstations throughout the headquarters.
In response to this an Apple spokeswoman said, “We have a zero tolerance policy toward drug use and possession” which seems to imply an automatic loss of one’s job. In fact their website says, “Apple is a drug-free workplace… Any employee who violates this policy will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.” This differs from the policies of other companies in industries where drug addiction and abuse is more common. For example, United and other major airlines participate in an FAA program that helps pilots get alcohol and drug treatment and monitoring after they return to work. A similar program has been established for doctors and nurses.
The 14 guilty of drug possession in Cork combined with the incidences of Apple employees leaving out secret products while drinking at bars – like Gray Powell – may point to a larger substance abuse problem within the tech industry writ large. Perhaps they, like the medical field and FAA, should consider an alternative to a zero tolerance policy and work with employees in entering addiction treatment and monitoring programs – as the success rate for addiction treatment for impaired professionals in other industries has been high.