Substance abuse in the workplace: it’s a tough topic no one likes to think about, and unfortunately, that desire to look the other way is a big part of the problem. From lost productivity to absenteeism, alcohol and drug use among employees can be an expensive problem for businesses. But the impact of substance abuse goes beyond increased accident rates, absenteeism and lost productivity. The aftereffects of substance use, like a withdrawal or hangover, can severely hinder job performance, leading to poor decision-making, higher turnover rates, and low productivity.
Individuals who abuse drugs miss on average ten workdays for everyone that is missed by other employees. They are two-thirds as productive as the average worker. Worse, they are five times more likely to cause an accident in the workplace that injures themselves or others, according to Promises Treatment Center.
If you suspect a co-worker is struggling with substance abuse, don’t turn a blind eye. All of us have a friend, colleague or loved one who has struggled with drug addiction in the past. Some of us are lucky that our loved ones got the help they needed and are now living a drug-free life. But for others, help comes too late or never at all. Roughly 100 Americans die each day from a drug overdose, making it the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, reports the Washington Post. With the recent epidemic of prescription drug and heroin overdose deaths making headlines, it’s easy to feel the battle against drugs is lost. It’s not. There is always hope– and that hope starts with your willingness to reach out and help a co-worker or loved one who is in need.
I recently talked with the team at Ridgefield Recovery about the best ways to help a co-worker who is struggling with addiction. It all starts with recognizing the signs of workplace substance abuse and being willing to take action.
7 Signs Your Co-Worker is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol
At one point or another, many of us have had too much fun at a company holiday party or ended up at work with a slight hangover. But consistently being unable to stop drinking or always coming into work with a hangover (or suffering from withdrawal symptoms) are two signs that a co-worker may have a substance abuse problem. Here are seven more:
- Frequent tardiness, unexplained absences or absences with unrealistic and far-fetched excuses.
- A change in productivity or on-time performance, such as consistently missing deliverable deadlines or submitting poor quality work.
- Change in personal appearance and lack of personal hygiene.
- Decreased productivity and general sluggishness (e.g., falling asleep during meetings, unwillingness to contribute to group discussions, etc.
- Sudden paranoia or overreaction to constructive feedback; inability to see feedback as a helpful suggestion; behaving as if someone at work is “out to get them.”
- A sudden change in openness: an unwillingness to ever discuss/mention personal interests, hobbies, or family life for someone who was previously open or outgoing.
- Unusual physical symptoms or behaviors: unsteady gait, manic behavior, hyperactivity, sudden unexplained weight loss, wearing long sleeves in hot weather, etc.
Next Steps: Getting Help with a Professional Interventionist
Staging an intervention is a critical first step to helping a co-worker take the first steps to recovery. An intervention is a meeting where one group of people intervenes on behalf an individual who is struggling with addiction.
“An intervention can be an emotionally-charged event,” says Kevin Morse, an Interventionist and Recovery Consultant with Ridgefield Recovery. “It can be very uncomfortable, confusing, and scary; but in reality, it’s an opportunity for positive change.”
While there’s a great deal you cannot plan for with an intervention; a professional interventionist can draw on their wealth of experience to help coach, facilitate, advocate and support a successful intervention process. Even if you do not choose to have a professional interventionist, I do recommend reviewing a drug intervention guide to learn more about what to expect and how to prepare.
Don’t turn a blind eye to substance abuse in the workplace. We spend a lot of time worrying about our email marketing campaigns or social media following. But in the bigger picture, these concerns don’t hold a candle to the importance of a human life. If you suspect a co-worker is struggling with substance abuse, talk to a supervisor confidentially about how you can best help your coworker take the first steps to recovery.