What Are the Signs of Drug Use at Work?

By Patrick Banks

Posted 2 years agoGROWTH


Addiction has the potential to affect all facets of someone’s life, including relationships and overall health. It can also gravely affect one’s work position. If you’re an employer, you may have already instilled tactics to create a comfortable and supportive work environment. But it’s still possible that you may come across an employee who is beginning to slack at work, appear disheveled, and skip work days. 

These factors might point to substance use. So how can you be sure these are the signs of drug abuse? Below we’ll explore the signs of drug use at work. 

What Is Addiction?

In a 2017 report, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that close to 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder (SUD). This medically diagnosed disorder is characterized by frequent drug or alcohol use, despite the negative physical, mental, and social problems that arise. 

For those with a SUD, controlling their intake of substances is extremely hard. They cannot simply just “quit” in most cases, and will use drugs and alcohol at inappropriate times, such as work. 

3 Signs of Drug Use at Work

In another study done by SAMHSA in 2015, it was reported that the average rate of illicit drug use between full-time workers aged 18 and 64 was 8.6%

The signs and symptoms of substance use in the workplace can vary. Some employees may have a better handle on their intake, while others are more apparent. Three signs of drug use at work are:

  • increased absences 
  • declining job performance
  • frequent health issues 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these signs. 

Increased Absences 

The search, use, and withdrawal period that come from drug use can be time-consuming. When someone becomes physically dependent on a substance, they may go on long binges with the substance. 

Other times, the comedown and withdrawal from substance use will make someone unable to work. They may experience a slew of uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms, such as headaches, shakes, and mood swings. 

To prevent getting caught using, an employee may call into work and say they’re sick or claim to have a family emergency. They may also arrive at work at odd times. When this becomes consistent, it might be a sign of drug abuse. 

Declining Job Performance 

Drug abuse has the ability to affect certain parts of the brain that control critical thinking, judgment, and decision-making. This can hurt one’s ability to be effective in the workplace because physical dependence often makes substances a person’s main priority and other responsibilities fall to the wayside. 

If a once productive employee starts to habitually show lower quality work, this may be because they are more concerned with their intake of drugs, or the effects of substances on their mind and body is impacting their ability to perform well at work.

Frequent Physical and Mental Health Issues 

Drugs are foreign toxins to the body. When use is repeated, it can cause physical and mental harm. It can also make the body weaker and more prone to other illnesses. Physical and mental changes can depend on how drug use is administered, how long abuse has gone on, and the drug of choice. Physical and mental signs of abuse are:

  • extreme weight changes 
  • bodily marks, such as injection sites, burns, and scratches 
  • constant runny nose 
  • falling asleep or lack of attentiveness 
  • ruined teeth
  • pale skin 
  • sunken eyes
  • smelling like certain drugs or alcohol 
  • appearing to look disheveled and disorganized
  • bad hygiene and ungroomed look
  • erratic behavior, such as rambling, making unsolicited statements, or being short-tempered
  • lack of communication with co-workers
  • glassy, bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils 

Next Steps

Employees in active addiction may use against their own will, despite wanting to stop. In the same vein as those with other mental health disorders, such as bipolar personality disorder or extreme anxiety, an employee with a substance use disorder will require long-term treatment. 

It’s important to approach these individuals with care and understanding. This kind of attitude can be the start of someone starting their recovery. 

About the author Patrick Banks

Patrick is a Berlin-based dating advisor, motivational speaker, a huge fitness and vegan diet enthusiast and the main editor at Wingman Magazine, specialised in men's health. His ultimate goal is to share with men around the world his passion for self-development and to help them to become the greatest version of themselves. He believes a healthy body and successful social interactions are two main keys to happiness.

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