In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work environment, some employees feel overstressed. Chronic stress is a known contributor to drug and alcohol addiction.
Many people work from home now, and some managers may not have experience identifying potential signs of addiction among remote employees.
Recognizing these signs early can lead to timely intervention and support for the people affected, as well as maintaining a healthy and productive workplace.
How Serious Of A Problem Is Substance Abuse In The Workplace?
The prevalence of drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace is a serious and pervasive issue that can have significant consequences for both employees and employers.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), almost 9% percent of working adults have a substance use disorder (SUD). Industries with high rates of addiction include construction and food service.
In 2016, a surgeon general’s report stated that the yearly impact of substance misuse in America, including both alcohol and illicit drug use, is $442 billion.
Employee substance abuse accounts for people missing two more weeks of work than their peers and can lead to errors in performance, affecting the company’s success.
Common drugs of abuse among workers include both legal and illicit drugs, such as:
- opioids (fentanyl, codeine, etc.)
- opiates (heroin)
- stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamine)
- prescription drugs
8 Warning Signs That An Employee Is Experiencing Addiction
It’s not always easy to identify when a fellow worker, employee, or business partner is experiencing an addiction, because substance abuse affects everyone differently.
However, there are some common signs of addiction in the workplace.
Unexplained Changes In Behavior
Unexplained changes in behavior, such as erratic job performance or suddenly taking extended breaks, can indicate drug addiction in the workplace.
These shifts may result from the effects of substance abuse on cognitive and emotional functions, impacting an employee’s ability to effectively carry out their responsibilities.
Decline In Job Performance
A decline in job performance, marked by decreased productivity, missed deadlines, and increased errors, is another common sign of drug addiction in the workplace.
Substance abuse can affect an employee’s ability to focus and make decisions, leading to a noticeable drop in their quality of work.
Frequent Absences Or Tardiness
Frequent absences or tardiness in the workplace can be indicators of addiction when they’re accompanied by changes in behavior, appearance, and performance.
Erratic attendance might result from seeking drugs, taking drugs, or recovering from their effects, or it could be due to the employee’s lack of awareness of the time due to the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Mood Swings And Irritability
Mood swings and irritability in the workplace can be linked to drug addiction because substances have a significant effect on the neurological makeup of the brain.
Substance abuse can disrupt brain chemistry, leading to emotional instability. Coworkers might notice sudden shifts in demeanor, affecting teamwork and communication.
Neglected Professional Appearance
Someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be more concerned about procuring these substances than keeping a clean and professional appearance.
This can lead to apathy, impacting personal grooming and clothing choices. Sudden weight loss or weight gain can also indicate issues with substance abuse.
Isolation From Colleagues
Employees facing substance abuse issues might withdraw from colleagues due to shame or in order to conceal their behavior.
Isolation may stem from fear of judgment or a desire to maintain the addiction’s secrecy, which can hinder teamwork, communication, and overall morale.
Loss Of Interest In Work
Substance abuse can also dampen motivation and focus, leading to disengagement from work tasks and projects.
An employee experiencing addiction may also skip out on team-building activities and work outings in favor of engaging in substance use.
Engaging In Risky Behaviors At Work
Engaging in risky behaviors at work, like disregarding safety protocols, can be tied to drug or alcohol addiction.
Impaired judgment due to substance use may lead to recklessness, endangering oneself and others.
Risk Factors For Addiction Among Employees
There’s no one reason why some workers may experience drug abuse or alcohol addiction, while others do not.
Factors that may lead to drug or alcohol use include:
- work-related stress
- personal issues
- mental health challenges
- accessibility to legal and illegal drugs
- social environments
- work culture
- job dissatisfaction
- lack of support systems
The opioid crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other far-reaching challenges can also add to feelings of stress, which may heighten the chances of drug addiction.
Supporting Employees’ Mental Health
There are several ways that employers can help support employees’ mental health in an effort to prevent substance abuse.
Supporting mental health in the workplace also means providing access to treatment resources when addiction does occur.
The following can support mental health in the workplace:
- provide education about addiction’s impact
- establish clear substance abuse policies
- implement drug testing
- offer counseling services and resources
- encourage open conversations without stigma
- organize workshops on stress management
- develop a return-to-work plan post-rehab
- offer flexible work arrangements if possible
- involve employee assistance programs (EAPs)
- promote a healthy work-life balance
- foster a supportive and non-judgmental environment
Employees with milder addictions may be able to receive care via outpatient programs, where therapy sessions and other treatment options are provided at night or on the weekend.
Allowing employees their jobs back after completing long-term addiction treatment, such as inpatient programs or residential rehab, can encourage employees to seek help when needed.
Find Drug And Alcohol Abuse Treatment Today
Find individualized treatment options for drug or alcohol addiction today by visiting AddictionResource.net.
Published on August 29, 2023
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Safety Council
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration