Substance Abuse in The Workplace

Table of Contents


Alcoholism and drug addiction are a growing concern in the United States, in and out of the workplace.

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Data from NSDUH 2021 (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) indicate that:

  • 46.3 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with substance use disorder
  • 29.5 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.
  • 7.3 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with drug addiction and alcoholism.

Alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana are among the most abused drugs in the workplace.

This guide explores the extent of substance abuse in the workplace and highlights the signs of a drug addict at work. Drug abuse in the workplace is estimated to cost U.S. employers over $100 billion each year, but what are the consequences beyond the economic cost and can you get fired for going to rehab?

Drug Use at Work

The abuse of drugs and alcohol by U.S. employees creates safety, social, and medical issues that affect both employers and those in the workplace. Workplace substance abuse may:

  • Present public safety issues.
  • Impair performance and productivity.
  • Create safety issues for those abusing substances and for their co-workers.

Raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of workplace substance abuse and implementing workplace prevention policies may help to reduce the burden of drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace.

Drug and alcohol abuse at work can lead to accidents and injuries, as well as:

  • Illness
  • Lateness
  • Absenteeism

The role of employers in tackling workplace substance abuse is not to diagnose substance use disorders, but rather to consider whether someone abusing alcohol or drugs presents a safety risk to themselves or others in the workplace.

an image of three women at work in the office, depicting substance abuse in the workplace

Signs of Drug Use at Work

Many people who abuse alcohol or drugs conceal their substance use. That said, there are still some indicators of on-the-job substance abuse. The following signs of drug use at work are grouped as follows:

  • Physical signs of drug use at work
  • Psychological signs of drug use at work
  • Behavioral signs of drug use at work

Physical signs of drug use at work

  • Reduced awareness
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Slurred speech
  • Reduced standards of personal hygiene
  • Changes to physical appearance
  • Sudden incapacity
  • Distorted hearing
  • Restricted mobility

Psychological signs

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

Behavioral signs

  • Absenteeism
  • Lateness
  • Poor performance at work
  • Dishonesty
  • Reduced functionality
  • Erratic behavior
  • Fluctuations in focus and energy
  • Distorted reasoning
  • Reduced levels of perception
  • Impaired coordination
  • Inability to perform routine tasks
  • Worsening relationships with colleagues, managers, or clients
  • Theft

Anonymously Reporting Substance Abuse in The Workplace

If you want to report drug use at work anonymously, there are several options available to you, including:

  • Contact a third-party reporting service: Many companies offer third-party reporting services that allow employees to report misconduct, including drug use, anonymously. These services usually involve calling a hotline or using an online reporting form.
  • Speak with a manager or HR representative: If your company has a policy against drug use, you can speak with a manager or HR representative and request that your report be kept anonymous. They may ask you for additional information, but they should take steps to protect your identity.
  • Contact your company’s ethics or compliance office: Many companies have an ethics or compliance office that is responsible for investigating reports of misconduct. You can contact this office and request that your report be kept anonymous.
  • Call the EAP (Employee Assistance Program): Call the EAP hotline to report someone that you believe is using drugs or alcohol at work. You can place an anonymous call to an EAP hotline.
  • Report to a government agency: If you believe that drug use at your workplace poses a safety risk, you can report it to a government agency such as OSHA or the Department of Labor. You can typically do this anonymously.

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 Get Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction at California Detox & Rehab

If you have an addiction to prescription medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs and it is impairing your professional performance, begin your sustained recovery at California Detox in Laguna Beach.

Those who are dependent on addictive substances may benefit from our supervised medical detox program. Take advantage of medications and continuous care to streamline the drug or alcohol withdrawal process then transition directly into one of the following programs:

  • Inpatient program (residential rehab)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Remote rehab program
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program (for co-occurring disorders)

All treatment programs at California Detox deliver individualized treatment that involves science-backed and holistic interventions that may include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Aftercare

Call admissions today at 949.694.8305 for immediate assistance.


The FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) prohibits employers from firing you if you take advantage of FMLA leave to attend rehab for up to three months. Time off work under the FMLA is unpaid and non-reimbursable.
It is possible to get fired for being a drug addict if substance abuse is impairing your ability to perform your job, or if you present a safety risk to yourself or others in the workplace. Neither the FMLA nor the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) provides protection for those who are actively using drugs.


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