Spotting addiction among employees

Addiction in the workplace is an issue many employers deal with. Of the more than 14 million people who use illegal drugs, 70 percent are employed, according to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency. Substance and alcohol abuse in the workplace affects everything from office dynamics to absenteeism, productivity, and grave concerns like injuries and fatalities.

Find out how to spot signs of addiction in employees and how you can offer resources to get them the help they need.

Substances Commonly Abused Among Professionals 

Alcohol: Employees who drink before or during work, whether at lunch, business functions, or covertly, have trouble getting to work on time and doing their job well. They’re more likely to have absences and occupational injuries. At least 11 percent of people fatally injured in the workplace were drinking on the job.

Marijuana: With new high-potency strains as well as dangerous synthetic varieties laced with chemicals, marijuana is one of the most accessible and commonly used illegal substances in the workplace. According to a 2014 survey, approximately one in ten people have shown up to the office high on marijuana.

Cocaine: After a short-lived decline, cocaine use is again on the rise within the workplace. Professionals in high-pressure industries are turning to the powder stimulant to stay on top of demanding workloads and increase productivity during long hours. While cocaine’s immediate effects may sound alluring to some employees, the substance is highly-addictive and comes with serious health risks.

Prescription Drugs: Prescription drug abuse has infiltrated the workplace as the opioid epidemic rages on. People using pain killers like OxyContin can easily become addicted. As of 2015, in the U.S. alone, more than 15 million people were abusing prescription drugs. Depressants prescribed for anxiety, depression, and insomnia are addictive and often lead to users self-medicating beyond their prescribed dosages.  

Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, are used to treat conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy. But their non-prescribed use among professionals has grown in recent years as employees turn to stimulants for enhanced productivity. The adverse effects of stimulant drug abuse include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, seizures, heart failure, and more.

Signs of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Spotting signs of drug or alcohol abuse among employees can be tricky. Just because an employee shows up late with bloodshot eyes one morning doesn’t mean they have an addiction. Someone with an addiction will show multiple signs over time, which may include:

  • Excessive tardiness or absenteeism. You may see a pattern like an employee calling off on Mondays, after holidays, or paydays.
  • Change in appearance such as wearing dirty or wrinkled clothes, looking disheveled, neglecting personal hygiene.
  • Physical symptoms like tremors, shaking, staggering, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, alcohol on breath (or constant use of breath mints and gum), runny nose (or always rubbing their nose), sweating, clammy hands, or looking spaced out.
  • Mood changes like withdrawing from co-workers; behaving paranoid, irrational, irritable, argumentative, or short-tempered.
  • Acting inappropriate, obnoxious, loud, or laughing excessively.
  • Avoiding people or meetings after lunch.
  • Multiple daily trips to the bathroom or parking lot; running errands during work time.
  • Sleeping at work.

How Employee Assistance Programs Can Help Employees with Addiction

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a win-win in the workplace, benefiting employees and employers. EAPs provide confidential services to deal with drug and alcohol addiction among employees. These programs are led by certified counselors and offer assessments, counseling, and referrals that are easily accessible.

Successful EAPs help employees overcome addiction, reduce consequences of workplace substance abuse (e.g. turnover, theft, and accidents), lead to increased productivity and morale, and provide a safe and healthy environment for all employees. EAPs can also help employers create wellness programs and drug-free workplace policies.

If you are looking to offer EAP benefits to your employees, Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP can help. Contact us today to learn more about how you can better support your employees with a customized EAP.