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Apr 18, 201901:04 PM Live Well, Work Well

with Debra Lafler

Help employees with alcohol, vaping, and opioid use

(page 1 of 2)

Public health campaigns going on this month: April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and Drug Take Back Day is April 27.

We are a substance using culture. Even if we don’t personally use, others around us do, and our kids are dealing with this, too. Did you know that middle and high schoolers are vaping nicotine and marijuana in such high numbers that federal and state government agencies are calling it an epidemic?

As part of your employee wellness initiatives, be sure to give attention to the topic of substance use, for both adults and teenagers. I know it’s not something we normally openly talk about at work, but we should. Why? Consider these statistics:

  • One out of every 25 teens (age 12–17) struggle with a substance use disorder;
  • One out of every seven young adults (age 18–25) struggle with a substance use disorder;
  • One out of every eight adults struggle with a substance use disorder; and
  • One out of every 10 people (over 12) have used an illicit drug in the past 30 days.

Those numbers were only those that could be classified as having a disorder (or the last one about using illicit drugs). Imagine how much higher the numbers are for using legal substances in general?

Basically, our culture uses substances, so let’s talk about it and provide resources in case anyone needs them.

Employee engagement

Substances are impacting employee engagement whether we pay attention to them or not. If an employee is personally struggling with substance use, or if they have a loved one at home that is, their health and well-being will be affected.

Common substances


Alcohol is the most frequently consumed substance of use and misuse in Wisconsin. — Wisconsin Department of Health

Alcohol is everywhere, especially here in Wisconsin. It’s a social symbol. We use it to socialize, connect, celebrate, and relax, and while many manage their alcohol use well, many others do not.

The misuse of alcohol contributes to health and social issues, including things like motor vehicle crashes, injuries, diseases, relationship abuse, child abuse, violent crimes, and death.

While we often do not want to consider the health risks to our mind and body, drinking alcohol does impact us, especially if we heavily drink on a regular basis. It can weaken our immune system, damage our digestive system, including the liver and pancreas, and it can contribute to developing certain types of cancers.

In 2014, 30% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol related. — Wisconsin Department of Health

Does this mean we have to promote not drinking? No. But we can provide things like:

  • Education about alcohol intake;
  • Tips for managing alcohol use;
  • Tips for drinking responsibly;
  • Tips for helping our kids with alcohol; and
  • Resources for getting help if needed.

Tobacco, nicotine, and vaping

The rates of tobacco use have lessened over the years but it is still a factor, and lately, e-cigarette use (or “vaping”) has gained rapidly in popularity, especially among middle and high school age children. So even if your employees are not personally using nicotine, their kids may be.

E-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased tenfold between 2011 and 2015 … and use has surpassed current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes. — CDC

Using tobacco or nicotine in any form (cigarettes, chew, or vaping) has physical and mental health risks. Most of us know the health risks of tobacco use, but not vaping. Vaping is being marketed as healthier or less risky, but there are risks, especially for kids:

  • They contain chemicals and heavy metals (nickel, tin, lead), which can damage lungs.
  • They can alter brain development, and affect memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention, and mood.
  • They are very addictive, and can increase the risk of other types of addiction.
  • The most popular vaping product among kids is called JUUL (and the kids may call vaping “JUULing.”) The amount of nicotine in one JUUL cartridge is roughly equal to the amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes.


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About This Blog

Debra Lafler is a Madison-based wellness consultant, coach, and speaker with over 20 years of experience in the field. She currently works as the employee wellness and employee assistance program manager for the Wisconsin State Department of Health Services, and as an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin’s Health and Wellness Management program. She also is available privately to hire as a business consultant, personal coach, or motivational speaker. Debra has a doctorate degree in Divinity & Spiritual Studies from Emerson Theological Institute; a master’s degree in Health & Behavior Studies specializing in Health Education from Columbia University; a bachelor’s degree in Communication, with certificates in Wellness and Coaching from The University of Wisconsin—Parkside; and certificates in Worksite Wellness, Holistic Stress Management, Grief Support, and Yoga. She can be reached at or



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