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Drug-Free Business – What are the Signs and Effects of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Employees

Updated on July 8, 2012
jpcmc profile image

I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. The rest is just life's add-ons: an educator, administrator, learning & development professional.


Do you think your company is drug-free? Sure some businesses have drug testing policies. But such tests are never flawless. The problem of drug abuse and misuse should not be taken lightly. Just one person in the company with a drug problem can affect others and the whole business. As such, keeping an eye for signs of drug and alcohol abuse is important.

Increased unexplained absences

Employees who abuse drugs and alcohol tend to miss work more frequently. Instead of accomplishing assigned tasks, these employees would rather spend time using addictive substances. Some users may also fail to report to work because they are often sick or feel weak.

What the company should do:

  • Ask for medical certificates
  • Talk to the employee about absences.


Decreasing Productivity

When an individual is consumed with substance abuse, it’s not just their health that suffers. The quality of their work also plummets. At first it may seem to be random bouts of lack of attention, but it eventually becomes a norm. A decrease in productivity affects the whole department and will eventually spread throughout the division and the company. Suffice to say, drug abuse is a problem that affects everyone in the company.

What the company should do:

  • Constant reminders about quality and productivity
  • Check the causes of decrease in productivity
  • Allow the employee to explain lapses and try to provide solutions
  • Help employee regain productivity through close mentoring and coaching

Behavior and Discipline problems

Some employees may exhibit atypical behaviors and attitudes. This can range from simple mood swings to more serious temper tantrums. Some drug dependent individuals may exhibit shorter patience, increased irritability and even violent tendencies. Lack of respect for authority and personal privacy can also be issues that point to drug abuse. In some instances, office theft becomes a concern.

What the company can do:

  • Immediate counseling and/or disciplining
  • Close observation of the employee and the changing habits
  • Document changes in behaviors especially altercations with other employees and superiors


Increased accidents and near misses

Individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol have impaired judgment. Reaction time is affected and can be disastrous. The effects of drug abuse can increase the accidents or near misses in the workplace.

What the company can do:

  • Identify the cause of accidents and near misses – human error, equipment malfunctions etc.
  • Pinpoint which person has a sudden increase in accidents and near misses
  • Regular performance evaluation

Poor relationships with colleagues

One of the most profound effects of substance misuse is the decline of relationships in the office. A once outgoing and cheerful person can suddenly become withdrawn. Moreover, because of the emotional, cognitive and psychological effects of substances abuse, relationships suffer.

What the company can do:

  • Peer counseling
  • Allow employees to interact more to unravel personal problems or concerns
  • Create a non-threatening environment so that the employee can get help from the office

Of course these signs can point to other reasons, but when taken collectively, this can point to drug or alcohol problems. Knowing what to look for is important. This way a coworker can help the person recover and win against his/her problem.

The employees are the most valuable asset a company can have against drug and alcohol problems. Although there are drug tests, they are merely tools that are never infallible. Instead, coworkers offer a better insight to the possibility of drug or alcohol problems. As such, it’s imperative that all employees are taught how to identify the signs of substance abuse. Likewise, they need to know how to help coworkers at different stages of drug or alcohol abuse. Lastly, they must be aware how to help them.

Before we castigate and ostracize a colleague for possible substance abuse, it is in the interest of that person and the whole company to try to help him/her. Awareness and true concern for the person can make a huge difference in a drug and alcohol dependent person.


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello Mike,

      You're right, drugs can really ruin a business. Your previous boss should know better.

    • profile image

      MIke 5 years ago

      Drugs and business is never a good mix...unless your business is drugs. :) I've seen businesses crumble because of drugs. When I was a younger sales person, I had a boss who was a user. The whole team suffered. The business fell apart.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello EuroNinila,

      Drug and alcohol abuse is present in all levels of society. If it is not addressed by companies, it will pull their business down. I appreciate your comments and the vote up.

    • EuroNinila profile image

      Fotinoula Gypsyy 5 years ago from NYC BABY

      This is a great hub both informative and interesting. Drug abuse is found all over the world in all different populations, even the rich so it is hard to spot an addict, but it is important for employers to be wary of this so it doesn't affect their company. Voted up and more!

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Thank you for the positive words Angel198625. Employers must be very careful when evaluating employees. Any wrong assumptions can cause tons of trouble both for the company and the employee. I believe that drug and substance abuse is a serious threat to the workplace and must be dealt with immediately. But this does not mean it has to be done haphazardly.

    • Angel198625 profile image

      Amber Lynn 5 years ago

      I found this hub to be both interesting and extremely useful for employers. One thing I particularly like is that you mentioned things such as peer counseling and talking to the employee. Mental illnesses can cause some of the same symptoms as abusing certain substances, so an employer would be able to rule that out by using those other options instead of simply assuming drug abuse. Great job!