Drugs in the Workplace – What Signs Should Employers Look For?

Drugs in the workplace

Whether employers know it or not, drugs in the workplace is a serious problem and addiction is present at almost every company and job site. It is estimated that over 70% of the 14 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed. Study after study has shown that opioid and alcohol misuse and abuse by employees can be a major factor in workplace problems, from things like sick days and absenteeism all the way up to major issues such as workplace injuries and fatalities.

Many employers we speak to want to know how to spot substance abuse by their employees. In this article, we give some insight into this major challenge.

Commonly Misused Substances

There are a variety of substances and drugs in the workplace that employers need to be on the lookout for:


Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs in the workplace. Part of the problem with Alcohol is that, since it is legal and socially acceptable, its use is questioned less than if it was another type of drug. Further compounding the problem is the fact that alcohol is sometimes still consumed at business functions, thereby making it seem more “OK” than other substances.

Employees who drink before coming to work or during their workday typically experience trouble getting to work on time and doing their job well. They’re more likely to have absences and occupational injuries. Of concern to employers is the statistic that at least 11 percent of people fatally injured in the workplace were drinking on the job.


Cocaine is back in the workplace with a vengeance. There was a period where cocaine use declined but that was a short-lived phenomenon. Cocaine use is on the rise within the workplace and even highly placed professionals in pressure-filled jobs are using this stimulant to help them manage demanding workloads and increase their productivity. Cocaine’s stimulant effect is tempting to some employees, but the highly addictive nature of the drug and its still expensive price tag makes it a special risk.

Prescription Opioids

Mostly as a result of America’s opioid epidemic, prescription drug abuse has become a serious problem in the workplace. Prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Oxycodone & Hydrocodone are often the culprits but there are other problem drugs in this group.

Employees are prescribed them by a physician or dentist after surgery or to help deal with chronic pain and they sometimes become addicted. Otherwise tee-totaling employees can become addicted to these substances simply because they are prescribed them.

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall are used to treat conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy, but their non-prescribed use among professionals, students and the general population has grown in recent years as part of the quest 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 is harder than it may seem The best way to evaluate an employee who you suspect has a substance abuse problem is to look for the following signs and most people with addiction or substance abuse problems will exhibit more than one of these:

  • Excessive lateness or absenteeism. Typical patterns include calling out on Mondays, after holidays, or paydays.
  • Mood changes like withdrawing from co-workers; behaving paranoid, irrational, irritable, argumentative, or short-tempered.
  • Acting inappropriately, being loud and obnoxious or laughing excessively.
  • Avoiding managers, fellow employees or meetings after lunch.
  • Suspicious or long trips to the bathroom or parking lot or doing out-of-the-office errands during work time.
  • Sleeping at work.
  • Neglecting personal hygiene, wearing dirty or messy clothes and looking disheveled and in an overall poor condition.
  • Physical symptoms like bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, tremors, shaking, staggering, alcohol on breath, overuse of breath mints and gum, runny nose or always blowing nose when not sick, sweating, clammy hands and a look of being high or “wasted”.

How New Life Medical Addiction Services Can Help Employees with Addiction

Employers know that some of their most productive employees could have potential alcohol or substance abuse problems. Now, instead of terminating these people, employers can choose treatment at New Life as an alternative.

New Life’s out-patient model is perfect for employers and employees alike. Our medically proven treatments are supervised by a physician and, unlike inpatient rehabs, employees can remain at work and at home while they complete their supervised recovery. It is a new approach to addiction treatment and New Life is proud to be an innovator in this field.

Call us at: 856-942-3700 or send us a Text Message.

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