How to recognise addiction in the workplace

Ian Middleton
Chief Executive Officer | Broadway Lodge
3rd July 2018

Did you know that 10% of people suffer from addiction?

More than 70% of substance abusers are employed which means the workplace is becoming a crucial focus of alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment activities. 

It has been stated that employees who abuse substances (alcohol, drugs and prescription drugs) are 25% – 30% less productive and miss work three times more often than their colleagues, so it’s in the employees’ and the employers’ interest to ensure that an addiction problem is recognised and help sought.

Management and supervisory staff are key to helping employees who are battling addiction so adequate training in this area is essential to ensure successful outcomes. Studies have indicated that workplace-based education can be a valuable resource for obtaining help for substance-using workers.

Perhaps you have an employee who goes from a star performer to an individual prone to absenteeism and inappropriate behaviour at work. Or imagine one of your most consistent, productive team members becoming erratic to the point of endangering co-workers around them. Situations like these can signal an employee battling substance abuse. 

13 warning signs of substance abuse in the workplace

Some of the main signs of alcohol and drug abuse include:

  • bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than normal
  • deterioration of physical appearance
  • falling asleep or passing out at work
  • noticeable change in personal grooming habits for the worse
  • sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
  • unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • drop in performance or attendance at work
  • unexplained need for money or financial problems, often accompanied by asking co-workers to lend money or stealing from the company
  • appear fearful, anxious or paranoid for no apparent reason
  • lack of motivation, person often appears lethargic or ‘spaced out’
  • sudden angry outbursts, mood swings or irritability
  • unexplained change in personality or attitude, particularly a negative change

Legal considerations

No organisation is required to tolerate illegal drug use or allow employees to be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace.  However, recovering addicts or alcoholics cannot face disciplinary action based solely on their past history with addiction. Their behaviour, legally, can never be treated more harshly than those non-addicts engaged in the same behaviour — even if it involves substances that have been identified as problems.

Advice for employers – need to know more?

If you would like to talk to someone in complete confidence you can make contact with Broadway Lodge who provide impartial advice and confidential support. They can also provide a complete advice document for employers or training for your team.

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