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6 Signs an Employee Might Be Using Drugs

Contrary to popular belief, chronic drug users aren’t always the homeless, unemployed people that you see roaming the streets. Only a tiny percentage of substance abusers get to the point where they cannot function during everyday life. Many drug addicts become supremely good at hiding their addiction from loved ones and employers, so much so that  70% of drug users are employed full time. If you are a business owner, this can mean there is a good chance that at least one of your employees suffers from a substance abuse disorder. Thankfully, there are signs an employee might be using drugs.

The issue of drug abuse remains a problem in our society because this illness thrives in secrecy. Chronic drug users are typically very good at hiding their illness until the addiction begins to take over their life. Slowly, an employee’s morale will plummet, and their performance at work will be equally affected. And when lost in addiction, a single employee's addiction may start to wreak havoc on the entire workplace and compromise the safety of your other employees.

There are specific signs and symptoms business owners must be on the lookout for to maintain a healthy work environment, and below, we share a few of the most common ones.



Compromised Performance at Work

 Often, it’s not immediately evident that an employee is suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Over time, evidence of drug or alcohol abuse reveals itself in declining workplace performances. Employers are aware of their employee’s capabilities, and employees are aware of the performance expectations at work. However, with someone suffering from a substance abuse disorder, you may start to see a decrease in productivity and work quality.

There is a chance this can be due to professional burnout, depression, or other personal issues. But suppose it becomes common for an employee to miss deadlines and produce substandard work. In that case, it might be in your company’s best interest to address the issue and see if there is anything else going on in the employee’s life that’s impacting their work performance.


Erratic Behavior

As lack of sleep, personal issues, and chronic stress alter an addict’s brain chemistry, their behavior can become downright bizarre, such as out of control mood swings. They may appear to be in good spirits one moment and then overcome by a fit of rage the next. Someone under the influence of a deepening substance abuse disorder may even compulsively lie and lose touch with reality.

Their behavior can escalate to the point where they insult other employees and yell at them out of anger. Once you have taken a moment to deescalate the situation, check in with your employee to determine the cause of this unprofessional behavior.


Poor Personal Hygiene and Unkempt Appearance

In the beginning stages of drug or alcohol addiction, an employee who’s suffering will most likely be able to maintain the façade of being healthy and responsible. As their addiction grows, everyday tasks become impossible.

Simple tasks like brushing their hair or teeth will fall to the wayside as your employee slips further into their addiction. If your employee is beginning at arrive to work looking disheveled, it could be a deeper issue than simply forgetting to do the laundry.


Persistent Financial Issues

Is your employee constantly complaining about financial issues and always asking for raises? Or maybe they’ve stooped so low as to ask you or other employees directly for money. The longer a person is addicted to drugs and alcohol, the more money they will need to spend to chase that fleeting high.

Supporting a drug habit is costly, and employees may even resort to stealing to maintain their addiction. Never-ending financial struggles is a significant sign an employee might be using drugs.


A Decline in Physical Health

Continued stress at the workplace can cause a decline in health, but when substance abuse disorder is at play, an employee can look like death incarnate. Things to look for are dark under-eye circles form from lack of self-care and sudden drops in weight. You may also see an uptick in them calling in sick, and when present they might have a runny nose, or frequent headaches.

Employees may even begin to suffer from dental issues, like periodontitis, and their teeth start to fall out. While everyone gets sick once in a while, consistent complaints of physical illness are one of the first symptoms of withdrawal. If your employee is persistently sick, this is a sign of a severe underlying issue.


Frequently Missing Work

As your employee continues to fight their crippling addiction, it becomes impossible for them to get out of bed in the morning. Excessive drug or alcohol use will eventually destroy a person’s sleep schedule and their sense of time as a whole. Eventually, an employee with a substance abuse disorder will struggle with the aftereffects of persistent drug or alcohol use, like hangovers and withdrawals. This will lead them to miss work often.

Additionally, someone with an addiction will also have lifestyle issues that keep them from arriving at work, such as toxic relationships, incessant legal trouble, and dramatic family relationships. As their challenges become unmanageable, going to work loses its priority in their life. If an employee’s absences are increasing, this a major red flag that they may be struggling with an addiction.


What Action Can Employers Take?

If you believe that one or more of your employees’ drug or alcohol use impacts their ability to stay employed with you, the first step to fixing this situation is to document their erratic behavior. Next, kindly approach them and explain that you believe addiction is negatively impacting their performance and creating an unsafe work environment for their colleagues.

When doing this, we highly recommend that you have another person near as a witness. From there, you will need to perform a drug test. If the drug test comes back positive, you can recommend that your employee receives counseling and rehabilitation before returning to work. Allow your employee the opportunity to get back on their feet by responding with compassion and understanding.



Countrywide Testing

Although there are more than six signs an employee might be using drugs, we hope this list gives you an idea of where to start. If you believe an employee is using drugs, Countrywide Testing can provide drug tests to confirm their status and get them on the road to recovery. We are an online retailer of drug and alcohol testing and lab services, and our products include pregnancy tests, medical supplies, multi-panel drug tests, and more. We also work with a SAMHSA, ISO, CLIA, and CAP licensed laboratory, which means you can rest easy knowing your samples get processed by a government-trusted facility.

If you’re interested in learning more about our services, contact us today to learn more!