Tips For Handling Addiction in the Workplace


Did you know that more than half those struggling with a substance abuse or addiction problem still go to work every day? That means that despite the fact that your organization may have gone through great lengths to do drug screenings and establish drug and alcohol policies and procedures to keep your workforce safe and healthy, there is still a high possibility that someone working for you may be caught up in a vicious cycle. (Image Credit: Skeeze/Pixabay)

Whether it’s marijuana, prescription painkillers, or alcohol, when an employee comes to work under the influence, it puts everyone at risk. Working while intoxicated reduces a person’s ability to work efficiently, causing productivity to take a hit. Substance abuse of any kind also increases the chances of someone getting hurt. This not only increases the chances of the abuser or addict getting hurt but those who work closely with them as well. Not to mention, their slowed productivity, changed behavior, or emotional highs and lows can also cause conflict amongst your team and/or a lowered morale.

As it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the entire staff, it is imperative that you know what to do when dealing with a matter this serious in your place of business. Below, is some advice:

Know the Signs

If you’ve never dealt with addiction yourself, it can be hard to tell, but some clear signs that someone working for you might be struggling with substance abuse include:

  • Increased absences or tardiness from work
  • Change in personality
  • Slowed productivity (with no explanation)
  • Increased conflict with other employees (or increased isolation)
  • Bloodshot, red, or cloudy eyes (serious red flag if this is noticed after a request for a break)
  • Frequent fatigue
  • Changes in their physical appearance or personal hygiene

So, if you happen to notice that a once very social, high-performing, and reliable employee starts calling out more than usual, slacking off unnecessarily, and is more isolated than usual, this would be cause for concern.

Have a One on One

If you’ve noticed the above-mentioned signs in an employee, you need to address the issue. It is important that you don’t try to do this in front of their co-workers. Instead, ask them to meet with you in your office for a bit to have a conversation.

When starting the dialogue, it is best not to open with accusations of substance abuse and/or addiction, no matter how sure you are that this is the issue. Coming from an accusatory standpoint will only cause them to get defensive and deny there’s anything wrong. Express your concerns for them by telling them what you’ve witnessed firsthand. Then, before allowing them to speak, let them know you’re there to support them in any way you can.

Offer Solutions

During your conversation, let them know that there are certain protections in place to prevent them from losing their job – if they are willing to get help. Then, offer them solutions that you’re aware of whether it’s the EAP services for counseling and other mental health assistance or rehab for addiction treatment in LA or somewhere close to where they live. Recommend that they take some time off to weigh their options and take the next steps towards getting their lives back on track.

If, however, your employee isn’t willing to be forthcoming about what’s going on, advise them that you’re there if they need you, that you’re paying attention to their actions, and that if they cannot make the necessary changes, there will be consequences to follow. You may have to request a mandatory drug screening or search of their work stations (for drugs, alcohol, or other substances) if you seriously believe there is an abuse or addiction problem. Just be sure to follow-up with human resources to determine what your next steps should be to protect the safety and well-being of your staff without getting into legal trouble.

Keeping up with the health, safety, and overall satisfaction of your employees is a multifaceted process. However, it is essentially necessary that employers must continue to work on regularly. If you suspect that one or more of your team members is dealing with a drug or alcohol problem, don’t ignore the problem – take action. The above-mentioned steps will help you to handle the matter in a professional yet supportive way that keeps everyone protected.

Hannah Foreman
Hannah Jaehnig is a professional freelance creative writer. She has been writing professionally since 2014 and writing for entertainment for much longer! She has a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing with a minor in History. She hopes to one day publish a fiction book. In the meantime, she’ll write about fashion!
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