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Recognizing Drug & Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

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August 17, 2021

It’s not always easy to spot drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. People experiencing addiction often become experts at hiding their abuse until it is too late. Still, there are often a number of tell-tale signs that something is amiss. Keep an eye out for the following issues that may indicate drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace; consequences and countermeasures should apply to employees who are found to be using substances at work.

The Top Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

It’s not always easy to identify substance abuse. In a work setting, you might notice that your coworker is having problems with productivity and attendance. This might include:

  • Being late to work, often with no explanation.
  • Leaving work early.
  • Making mistakes on easy tasks.
  • Falling asleep on the job.man stressed because of drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace
  • Taking longer and longer lunch breaks.
  • Going to the bathroom more often.
  • Using all their days off or sick time.
  • Having problems meeting deadlines.

They might also have a change in personality, behavior, or appearance. You may see that they:

  • Pay less attention to hygiene than they used to.
  • Are antisocial, especially if they used to be outgoing.
  • Are more moody or angry.
  • Have dilated pupils.
  • Have a runny nose.
  • Mention suicidal thoughts.
  • Tell lies about themselves.
  • Lose or gain weight unexpectedly.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts at inappropriate times.

Keep in mind that none of these signs necessarily point to a substance use problem. These same signs also can be indicators of depression, health problems, or family issues.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace: Consequences and Countermeasures

The effects of alcohol abuse and substance abuse in the workplace are devastating. Employers lose money because work isn’t getting done. Other employees have to pick up the slack, leading to burnout, stress, and anxiety.

Employers should have a drug-free policy in place. This will establish the consequences of drug use as well as the countermeasures the company is taking to prevent it. The key elements of a good drug-free program include:

  • Making sure that everyone understands the workplace is drug-free (and the consequences of breaking the rules).
  • Letting all employees know about the strategies and programs available if they need help.
  • Fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the well-being of everyone in the workplace.
  • Continually reviewing and updating the policy as needed.

If an employee is caught using drugs, it will need to be documented in their file. This allows employers to keep track of their performance and well-being. Many employers also have an employee assistance program that may be able to help the person find healthcare and treatment.

As an employee, there are a few things you can do to help a colleague you know is using. First and foremost, don’t enable them. You should never cover for a co-worker, make excuses for them, or loan them money. Instead, you should try to get them help by going to your supervisor or human resources department. Provide them with any evidence or anecdotes you have about the person’s drug use. That way, your employer can investigate and work on getting them the help they need.

Substance Abuse Doesn’t Have to Cost You a Job

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse in the workplace, you may be able to work with your employer to get help. Reach out to your human resources department for information on your workplace drug policy and start researching treatment programs to find the one that’s right for you.

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