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How should any drug addiction at workplace be dealt with?

Signs of Drug Addiction in the Workplace. Addiction in the Workplace & How to Intervene?

Dealing with drug addiction in the workplace

Substance use disorders negatively affect the U.S. industry through lost productivity, workplace accidents and injuries, employee absenteeism, low morale, and increased illness. U.S. companies lose billions of dollars a year because of employees’ alcohol and drug use and related problems. [1]

How should any drug addiction at workplace be dealt with? Workplaces can promote healthy attitudes towards responsible alcohol consumption and drug use risks through workplace education and awareness. By supporting your workers or employees to make better decisions about these issues, you can benefit from a healthier and happier workforce and a more secure workplace for everyone.

Signs of drug addiction in the workplace

The use of alcohol and other drugs before or while at work can have a significant negative impact on individuals and the people around them. The effects of both alcohol and illicit drug use during and outside of work hours can have a negative impact on workplaces such as:

  • Increased health and safety risks
  • Poor relationships
  • Poor business reputation
  • Lost productivity
How should any drug addiction at workplace be dealt with?
Drug addiction is a challenge facing millions of Americans, lurking in classrooms, offices, and living rooms from coast to coast. 

The use of recreational drugs, over-the-counter medications, or prescription drugs can lead to substance use issues. It can frequently lead to problems at work, home, school, and in relationships, and leave the user feeling isolated, helpless, or shamed. If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s drug use, it’s helpful to know the warning signs and more importantly, that help is available and treatment works.

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Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse

  • Risk-taking when you’re using, such as driving, having unprotected sex
  • Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home
  • Legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence 

Physical warning signs of drug abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, physical appearance
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing, or impaired coordination

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop-in attendance and performance at work
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, spaced-out, or angry outbursts
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason

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How do you deal with former drug addicts in the workplace?

Many workplaces sponsor Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that offer short-term counseling and/or assistance in linking employees with drug or alcohol problems to local treatment resources, including peer support/recovery groups. This is also crucial for those who are former addicts that would benefit from relapse prevention programs. [2] In addition, therapeutic work environments that provide employment for drug-abusing individuals who can demonstrate abstinence have been shown not only to promote a continued drug-free lifestyle but also to improve job skills, punctuality, and other behaviors necessary for active employment throughout life. Urine testing facilities, trained personnel, and workplace monitors are needed to implement this type of treatment.

How can you spot a drug addict in the workplace?

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees’ health, safety and welfare. Understanding the signs of drug and alcohol misuse (or abuse) will help you manage health and safety risks in your workplace, create a policy to deal with drug and alcohol-related problems, and support your employees.

Misuse is not the same thing as drug dependency. Instead, drug and alcohol misuse is using illicit drugs and abuse of alcohol, medications, and other substances. Consider these alarming signs, which could indicate drug or alcohol abuse:

  • Unexplained or recurring absences
  • A change in behavior
  • Unexplained descents in productivity
  • More accidents or near-misses
  • Performance or conduct issues

These can also be symptoms of other things, like stress or illness. Therefore, you must consult employees or their representatives on health and safety concerns. Consultation involves you not only giving information to employees but also listening to them and considering what they convey.

You could ask your employees what they know about the consequences of drugs and alcohol on health and safety and the regulations on drug and alcohol use in your business. Think about the kind of work you do and any safety-critical features where drug or alcohol abuse could have a severe outcome, for example:

  • Using machinery
  • Using electrical equipment or ladders
  • Driving or operating heavy lifting equipment

You can use this information to help with your risk examination.

Where employees in safety-critical jobs seek help for alcohol or drug misuse, it may be required to transfer them to other work, at least temporarily, while you encourage them to get treatment as well.

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How to do an intervention?

An intervention is an organized confrontation with a loved one about their drug or alcohol addiction. It can involve anyone (family, friends, coworkers) who has a relationship with the individual. They then use the opportunity to express how the person’s addiction has impacted them. An intervention is not a form of addiction treatment but often a means of convincing a drug or alcohol addict to seek treatment from a rehab facility. 

These are emotionally charged affairs that can be difficult for the addicted person and those who staged the intervention. Interventions are typically reserved as a last-ditch effort to motivate someone to seek treatment.

How should any drug addiction at workplace be dealt with?
Anyone who has been close to a long-term alcoholic or drug addict knows that getting someone to quit is tough.

Tips For Holding An Intervention

Your We Level Up addiction services counselor will walk you through the planning process to minimize the possibility of negative outcomes. Here are a few recommendations on how to do an intervention. [3]

  • Guilt trips aren’t welcome here. The purpose is not to shame an addict but to open their eyes to how they have harmed themselves and others
  • Do not yell. This can make them feel attacked and put them on the defensive
  • Be mindful of the time and setting. Make this confrontation as non-stressful as possible and avoid doing it at a time when their emotions are already volatile (like after a breakup or getting fired) or somewhere that they’ll be distracted or intimidated.
  • Be as specific as possible. It’s recommended that each participant has an itemized list of grievances that are short and to the point. 
  • Write down speaking points in advance. Doing so when you’re calm can help prevent things from being said harshly in the heat of the moment.

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Step 1

Once you hire an interventionist, he or she will be able to advise you on the best practices for making the event go smoothly. Your interventionist may tell you about the optimal times and places to hold the event based on you and the individual’s needs. In general, it is best to hold the drug/alcohol intervention early in the day or at a time when the addict is less likely to be drunk or high. Holding the event at a neutral, familiar location is also recommended. But remember, interventions are about the individual, so each situation differs as does every person.

Step 2

Perhaps most importantly, your interventionist will guide you in how best to confront the addict without pushing him or her away or resenting you, which is one of the family’s worst fears. Maintaining neutral ground can be difficult when denial is strong or the alcoholic/addict becomes argumentative against others’ experiences, but our licensed interventionists provide unique approaches to these situations through their own experiences.


  • Be specific about times they have put themselves or others into harm, danger, or emotional turmoil.
  • Be concise and direct; decide for yourself that you will no longer be involved with the family member as long as he or she is acting out the addiction. This means leaving the relationship until they agree to enter into treatment.
  • Have a treatment plan in place.
  • Follow through on your word if they decline treatment.
  • Contact one of our professional interventionists and bring together all the people who are affected and hurt by the situation, love the individual, and are willing to stop contact with the addicted person until he or she goes into a treatment center or gets some other form of help.
  • Communicate openly with the professional to help stifle your need to control the situation, enable the afflicted, or be overly judgemental.
  • Accept the person as he or she is; understand that the addiction will continue, and learn to take care of yourself within the situation.


  • Shame or berate.
  • Schedule the intervention at a time they are like to be stressed or intoxicated.
  • Ramble or vent — your healing will come when they are in a better place to listen.
  • Be negative.
  • Ignore the signs: The drugs that are available to emerge generations these days are more dangerous than anything you ever experienced in your youth. The youth today might get hooked on painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Lortabs. Then when those highs don’t cut it, they get turned onto stronger opiates such as heroin, oxycontin, and potentially worse. Meth, cocaine, or crack might also fall into play.  No one seems to walk completely away from this addiction because the temptation is there each and every day for the rest of their lives and they begin to fight a force they cannot win. See the signs and symptoms of their use and point them out; show them they aren’t fooling anyone with their behavior.

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Support for employees

Employees with a drug or alcohol problem may ask for help at work if they are convinced their issues will be dealt with privately or confidentially. But also consider your legal position if you are given proof or information indicating an employee’s drug abuse has involved breaking the law at work.

Drug and alcohol dependency are recognized medical concerns. Therefore, someone misusing drugs or alcohol has the same rights to confidentiality and support as they would if they had any other medical or psychological illness.

Encourage them to get help from addiction specialists or get professional help from a rehab center. Consider permitting someone time off to get expert help. The cost of recruiting and training a new worker may be more than the cost of time off.

How should any drug addiction at workplace be dealt with?
If you think that someone you love is struggling with addiction, it’s essential that you try to get them help. 

As the addiction treatment community begins to realize that addiction is itself a mental disorder, the relationship between drug abuse and psychiatric disorders becomes more complicated. The greater treatment community largely lacks a proper understanding of dually diagnosed conditions, so these conditions are still treated separately, or worse–not treated or diagnosed at all. Our dual diagnosis treatment centers in We Level Up Florida, California, Texas, and New Jersey are some of the facilities that have professionals trained to help treat co-occurring disorders concurrently. This type of tandem treatment provides some of the best success rates.

To learn more, check out these resources:

How should any drug addiction at workplace be dealt with?

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[1] SUBSTANCE USE AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER BY INDUSTRY – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration
[2] Drug & Alcohol Addiction Intervention Services – Level Up Lake Worth, FL

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