Addiction in the Workplace

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FAQs

Addiction in the workplace can lead to a decline in performance that spills beyond the person using drugs or alcohol and pollutes the working environment for others. The impairments stemming from drug or alcohol use can impact productivity, morale, and the safety of colleagues. While the cost of addiction in the workforce is often assessed in financial terms, it also extends to more subjective losses that can fundamentally alter the dynamics of an office.

Drug & Alcohol Addiction in The Workplace Statistics

Perhaps the most telling addiction in the workplace statistic is from NDADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) – 70% of those who misuse illicit narcotics in the United States manage to maintain employment. Many of these people report binge drinking, although some may also abuse drugs like marijuana and cocaine on the job.

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NSC (National Safety Council) reports that over 15% of employees grapple with a substance use disorder (the clinical term for addiction). This may involve the abuse of prescription medications – most prevalent in the services sector – or it may encompass any type of illegal drug.

NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) states that those who indulge in alcohol abuse and contend with substance use dependence are roughly three times more likely to adversely affect the work environment and encounter work-related absences due to injuries. This does not account for those who become actively intoxicated in the workplace, another pressing danger for co-workers.

Signs of Drug Addiction in The Workplace

Drug addiction in the workplace may not always be detectable since most people who engage in substance abuse at the workplace attempt to conceal their actions. That said, look for the following cluster of indicators that may suggest on-the-job substance abuse.

Physical signs of addiction may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Altered physical appearance
  • Hearing issues
  • Restricted mobility
  • Reduced awareness
  • Sudden incapacity
  • Sluggish reaction times
  • Drop in personal hygiene standards

Psychological signs of addiction may include:

  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Lapses in memory
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgement
  • Irritability
  • Aggression

Behavioral signs of addiction might include:

  • Theft
  • Reduced functionality
  • Dishonesty
  • Inability to perform routine tasks
  • Erratic behavior
  • Reduced levels of perception
  • Deteriorating relationships with clients, colleagues, or managers
  • Absenteeism
  • Fluctuations in focus and energy
  • Bad time-keeping
  • Poor performance at work
  • Impaired coordination
  • Distorted reasoning
People at work, depicting the issue of Drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace

Signs of Alcohol Addiction in The Workplace

Alcohol abuse in the workplace may involve consuming alcohol at work or before work. It is also possible for people to arrive at work impaired from drinking heavily the previous night.

If you suspect that someone is abusing alcohol in the workplace, it can be challenging to be sure about the accuracy of your suspicions. The clinical descriptor for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder, a chronic and progressive brain condition that is characterized by compulsive alcohol consumption regardless of adverse outcomes. The diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder are outlined in DSM-5-TR (the first revision since the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published by APA (American Psychiatric Association) in 2013. Some of the most pressing of these symptoms include:

  • Cravings for alcohol.
  • Inability to control alcohol intake.
  • Withdrawal symptoms in the absence of alcohol.
  • Drinking alcohol in potentially dangerous situations.
  • Repeated failed attempts to moderate or discontinue alcohol use.

Beyond these symptoms, look out for the following red flags for alcohol abuse in the workplace:

Look out for these red flags for alcohol abuse in the workplace:

  • Breath smelling of alcohol.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Unsteady gait.
  • Slow to get started in the mornings.
  • Poor productivity.
  • Regular absences.
  • Physical symptoms such as bloodshot eyes.
  • Hostility.
  • Persistent lateness.

The most common consequences of workplace alcohol abuse include:

  • Safety: From workplace accidents to injuries sustained by employees impaired from excessive alcohol consumption, alcohol transforms a safe workplace into a potentially dangerous environment.
  • Conflict: Conflict of all types can stem from a worker who drinks in the workplace.
  • Financial cost: It is challenging to quantify the overall financial cost of workplace alcohol abuse. From lost productivity and damaged client relationships to workplace accidents and their associated costs, alcohol abuse at work is costly for employers.
  • Absenteeism: Research suggests a positive association between chronic and heavy alcohol abuse and absences from work.
  • Reduced productivity: From short-term absenteeism to impaired performance due to the after effects of alcohol abuse, the quality and quantity of work can suffer when an employee is drinking in the workplace.

What to Do if You Suspect Addiction in The Workplace

Recognizing signs of addiction in the workplace is an essential first step towards creating a supportive and healthy work environment. If you suspect that a co-worker may be struggling with addiction, consider the following steps:

  • Document observable behaviors: Keep a record of specific behaviors or changes in performance that raise concerns. This documentation can be helpful when discussing the issue with management or human resources.
  • Approach with sensitivity: Address your concerns with the person privately and express your observations with empathy. Avoid being judgmental and focus on conveying genuine care and support.
  • Encourage open communication: Create a non-judgmental space for the individual to share their challenges. Encourage them to open up about any difficulties they may be facing and express your willingness to help.
  • Refer to support resources: Make the person aware of available resources, such as EAPs (employee assistance programs) or counseling services. Providing information on where to seek help can be a constructive step.
  • Involve HR or management: If necessary, involve human resources or management to address the situation professionally. Share your documented observations and express your concern for the person’s well-being.
  • Promote a supportive culture: Advocate for a workplace culture that promotes health and well-being. Encourage policies that support employees dealing with addiction, and foster an environment where seeking help is encouraged.
  • Offer assistance without enabling: While offering support, avoid enabling behaviors that may contribute to the continuation of addiction. Ensure that your assistance aligns with promoting recovery rather than sustaining harmful habits.
  • Educate the workforce: Raise awareness about addiction and mental health in the workplace. Education can reduce stigma and create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable seeking help without fear of judgment.
  • Follow company protocols: Adhere to company protocols and procedures when addressing addiction concerns. Some organizations may have specific guidelines in place for handling such situations.
  • Seek professional guidance: If the situation is complex or escalates, consider seeking advice from addiction professionals or counselors who specialize in workplace-related substance abuse issues.

Remember, approaching the situation with empathy and a genuine desire to help can make a significant difference to someone’s life. Addiction is a complex issue, and offering support in a constructive manner can contribute to a person’s ongoing recovery efforts.

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FAQs

NSC (National Safety Council) reports that over 15% of employees grapple with a substance use disorder (the clinical term for addiction). This may involve the abuse of prescription medications – most prevalent in the services sector – or it may encompass any type of illegal drug.
Recognizing signs of addiction in the workplace is an essential first step towards creating a supportive and healthy work environment. If you suspect that a co-worker may be struggling with addiction, consider approaching the situation with empathy and a genuine desire to help can make a significant difference to someone’s life. Addiction is a complex issue, and offering support in a constructive manner can contribute to a person’s ongoing recovery efforts.

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