Substance Abuse in the Workplace - What to do if Coworker has a Problem

Substance abuse in the workplace affects both employers and employees with drastic risks to safety, productivity, and reputations. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) estimates companies lose $100 billion a year due to alcohol and drug-related incidents.

Take a closer look

  • 8% of the American adult and adolescent population is affected by substance abuse disorders
  • 75% of people in the U.S. struggling with addiction are employed
  • Unintentional poisoning, including drug overdose, was the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. in 2016, surpassing motor vehicle accidents
  • Construction, entertainment, recreation, and food service industries have the highest rates of substance use disorders
  • 20% of work-related fatality victims test positive for drugs or alcohol
  • 40% of workplace fatalities are caused by someone testing positive for drugs or alcohol

Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Workplace as a Whole

  • Lower morale
  • Accidents
  • Thefts
  • Increased likelihood of interpersonal problems
  • Illicit activities at work such as buying and selling drugs among other employees
  • Higher turnover
  • Frequent training of new employees

And Make Work Difficult for Employees Themselves

  • Poor attendance
  • Sleeping on the job
  • Poor attention and concentration
  • Working while hungover or in withdrawal
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Accidental injury or death

Workplace Factors can Contribute to Alcohol and Substance Abuse

  • Stressful or highly competitive environments
  • Boring or isolating positions
  • Low levels of autonomy, complexity, or control over work conditions
  • Aggressive, verbally abusive, disrespectful, or harassing behavior
  • Availability of alcohol
  • Food service, construction, mining, maintenance sectors
  • Predominantly male workplaces have a higher level of substance abuse for both genders

Signs of an Alcohol or Substance Abuse Problem at Work

  • Showing up with hangover symptoms, such as headache, sensitivity to light, and irritability
  • Unexplained changes in mood or behavior
  • Withdrawal from other coworkers
  • Tense or strained interactions with others
  • Sleeping while at work
  • Decline in overall appearance including bad breath, wrinkled clothes, and disheveled hair
  • An unexplained decline in work quality
  • An unusual amount of time needed to complete a routine task
  • Missing deadlines
  • Unexplained disappearances while at work
  • Bringing alcohol or substances in a concealed container
  • Repeatedly using mints or mouthwash
  • Avoiding supervisors
  • Frequently calling in sick or not showing up for scheduled shifts
  • Frequently absent on Fridays, Mondays, or after payday

What to do if a Coworker has a Problem

We rely on our coworkers for a safe and pleasant work environment. They are our team members and friends. But what happens when we suspect that a coworker is showing up to work intoxicated, or is battling addiction?

Many of us want to defend them and cover-up for their mistakes so that they’re not in danger of losing their job. Unfortunately, this just enables the problem to spiral further. If you believe a coworker may be struggling, it is important to intervene.

If you are close, you may want to have a conversation with them in a neutral setting, and with an empathetic tone. Be prepared to listen and not point fingers. Explain why you are worried. If you don’t feel comfortable having a face-to-face conversation, speak with a supervisor or HR manager.

Akua Can Help

Akua offers a range of rehabilitation and recovery programs. From detox to residential and intensive outpatient options, a clinical team works closely with each client to determine the best care for their needs. If you are curious for yourself or a loved one, call 833-258-2669.

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