The Dangers of Substance Abuse in the Workplace


Using illegal recreational substances isn’t restricted to out of work hours. Some people will have developed a dependency on drugs, and others may believe that their use enables them to perform specific tasks better. Others might just take drugs at work for the sake of it.

Substance abuse at work is as illegal as it is anywhere else; it can also have the added dangers of creating risks to the users and others in the workplace.

Serious accidents are an obvious possible consequence, but absenteeism and theft can also be problems that arise from drug use.

The level of danger created and the full range of risks to any business that can come as a result of workers engaging in drug use while ‘on duty’ means that employers need to be aware and to remain vigilant.

4 Ways To Know Substance Abuse in the Workplace

The dangers of substance abuse in the workplace

1. Signs & Signifiers

There are many different signs to watch out for that might give away employees who are using drugs at work.

Of course, obvious signs include lethargy, a lack of concentration and even a bad attitude to colleagues and clients; however, depending on the substance involved quite the opposite might be just as common.

Stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can increase concentration, alertness and confidence in the user. That is why they are sometimes found in a variety of high-pressure and target-orientated working environments.

Good levels of communication and regular reviews can help you to keep track of any spurts of irrational behaviors, physical tremors or an unexplained untidy appearance among employees.

2. Contributing Factors

From workplace culture to feelings of alienation, research shows us that there are several factors that can contribute to the miss-use of drugs and alcohol by employees.

As a director or partner, it’s easy to lose sight of what it’s actually like to work for your business, to see things from the other side of the desk, so it is crucial to implement clear lines of communication.

Whether taking drugs is an accepted part of daily life for your employees can greatly depend on the make-up of your workforce.

It is generally accepted that in occupations dominated by females that it is less likely for any member of staff, either male or female, to have substance abuse problems.

However, in predominantly male places of work there are considered to be more issues. It can be quite common place to find a heavy drinking culture in male workplaces such as construction, maintenance and installation, so it’s important to prohibit the availability of alcohol on site with increased level of supervision making it hard to bring it into work.

At the other end of the scale, issues such as sexual harassment, physical aggression and even carrying out a job that is isolating can all be triggers, so levels of communication need to be high for those affected to feel easy and confident in addressing their problems with managers.

3. Testing Times

If an employee is hitting productivity targets and doing a good job, it might be difficult to tell if that is due to drug use or is merely a case of being lucky enough to have a worker who is very good at their job.

Drug testing in the workplace becomes an essential tool for any business owners who want to ensure there is no illegal activity taking place on their premises.

A reputable testing company will be discreet and treat everyone with respect, allowing you to present the process to your workforce as something that carries no adverse stigma while being a positive course of action for all concerned.

4. Abiding By The Law

Of course, it isn’t an employer’s strict responsibility if an employee is taking drugs, but if illegal drug use is happening in the workplace, it can become an issue.

Likewise, any accidents or mistakes made by drug-using employees in the course of their duties that cause other workers, customers or clients any problems might cause your business financial and reputational damage.

By taking a proactive approach, you can give yourself peace of mind while making sure that the working environment you create is abiding fully with the law.

When something that started as a purely recreational thing to do spills over into someone’s working day when it’s time to step in.

Whether it’s the bloodshot eyes, accelerated heart rate and lack of coordination caused by marijuana use, or the hostility, irritability and impaired judgement of valium addiction, the signs are there to see. You just have to look.

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Author: Aimee Williamson