Addiction causes grief for everyone involved. It affects the addict, his friends, and his family. What most people don’t realize, however, is that employers and co-workers are just as affected. Supervising and sharing a workplace with someone who has a substance abuse problem can impact office relationships, hinder workplace performance, or otherwise disrupt workflow. But how do you know for sure if your employee is suffering an addiction outside the office?


Substance Abuse and Employment in the United States

Private studies have shown that just over 70% of all substance abusers in the United States have at least one job. The percentage of people within this group who use drugs on the job remains undetermined. Additionally, a study of substance abuse and its effects on a workplace environment uncovers that substance abusers often:

  • are about 33% less productive than the average employee
  • miss around ten days of work for every one that is missed by the average employee
  • accumulate health care costs that are three times higher than those of the average employee
  • are around five times more likely to cause accidents or injury at work than the average employee


Looking for Signs of Addiction in Your Employees

Over time, anyone with a substance abuse problem becomes good at lying and keeping secrets. This can sometimes make it difficult to recognize the signs of addiction at work, even when you and your other employees are actively looking for them. Still, there are certain red flags to be on the lookout for that could indicate a substance abuse problem. These can include:

  • Increasing absences
  • Increasing tardiness
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Unreliable work performance
  • Falling behind in personal responsibilities
  • Sudden refusal to talk about personal subjects
  • Inexplicable or sudden changes in mood or behavior
  • Decreasing hygiene or unkempt personal appearance

These are the most common signs of substance addiction. If you notice any of these in an employee, ask about it.


What You Can Do as the Employer

Drug addiction in the workplace is a threat to everyone. If an employee in a position of authority has a substance abuse problem, it could influence a poor business decision that jeopardizes the whole business. This is precisely what detailed drug and alcohol policies are set in place to prevent.

As the employer of someone with a potential substance abuse problem, you have a legal responsibility to uphold the policy and take action when necessary. Additionally, you have an ethical and moral responsibility to protect your other employees. You can accomplish both of these things and still help your struggling employee by offering support.


The Impact of Showing Support in the Workplace

It is always important for employees to feel safe in the workplace. This includes anyone with a potential substance abuse problem. This is why it’s important for any workplace drug policies to have a supportive tone rather than a threatening one. If an employee is struggling with addiction off the clock, they should feel secure enough to come to you and admit it. If said employee is willing to get professional help, granting a leave of absence for addiction treatment is the best thing you can do as an employer. When you show support this way, anyone else who might be struggling with a substance abuse problem will be more likely to come forward. As an added bonus, your other employees will be more likely to get involved in their colleague’s recovery process knowing that he or she will not be fired for their addiction.


Discovery Institute Can Help Your Employee with Any Substance Abuse Problem

When an employee has a substance abuse problem, it impacts more than friends and family. It has a drastic and sometimes dangerous influence in the workplace, too. Because of this, employers and co-workers are encouraged to take action and show support when their peer is in need of professional help. If someone who works with you seems to exhibit signs of a substance abuse problem, call Discovery Institute at 888-616-7177. Our medical detox services and addiction therapy programs will help get your office workflow and your employee’s life back on track.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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