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- Drug-Free Workplace Advisor

Please note: The Department of Labor ended the drug-free workplace program in 2010. Accordingly, it does not currently administer a “Workplace drug testing” advisory web page and is not responsible for the content of the linked sites.


In American society alcohol is a legal drug. Nonetheless, it is a depressant and is the leading drug of abuse. Use of alcohol affects judgment and decision-making abilities, slows down the central nervous system and brain function, and reduces coordination and reflex actions.


  • Dulled mental processes
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Poor judgment
  • Reduced inhibitions

Alcohol consumption causes a number of marked changes in behavior. Even small amounts alcohol can significantly impair the judgment, reaction time and coordination needed to safely operate equipment or drive a car.

A 12-oz. can of beer, a 5-oz. glass of wine and a 1.5-oz. shot of hard liquor all contain the same amount of alcohol. Coffee, cold showers and exercise do not speed up the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol. Each half ounce of alcohol takes the average body about one hour to process and eliminate. Only the passage of time will free the body from the effects of alcohol.

Low to moderate doses of alcohol increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts, including physical altercations, threats, and spousal and child abuse. Moderate to high doses of alcohol cause marked impairments in higher mental functions, severely altering a person’s ability to learn and remember information. Very high doses cause respiratory depression and death. If combined with drugs, much lower doses of alcohol can multiply the problems.


  • Decreased sexual functioning
  • Liver disease
  • Increased cancers of the mouth, tongue, pharynx, esophagus, rectum, breast and skin
  • Kidney disease
  • Ulcers
  • Spontaneous abortion
  • Birth defects--leading cause of preventable retardation

Repeated use of alcohol can lead to dependence. For a regular drinker, the need to suddenly stop drinking is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions. Long-term consumption of large quantities of alcohol, particularly when combined with poor nutrition, can also lead to permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain and the liver.

Mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome. These infants have irreversible physical abnormalities, and alcohol consumption is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation. In addition, research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than other youngsters of becoming alcoholics themselves.


  • Many employers now test for the presence of alcohol along with other drug testing.
  • Consuming alcohol increases the likelihood that a driver or equipment operator will be involved in an accident.
  • Low doses of alcohol reduce inhibitions and affect decision making.
  • People who would not ordinarily behave in inappropriate ways can be persuaded to change their behavior when they are drinking.
  • Often employees are under the influence of alcohol when they make the decision to use drugs.

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