Addiction in the Workplace: Human Resources’ Response to Employee Addiction

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An addiction to drugs or alcohol can affect work performance of an employee in more ways that one

Not only may their productivity suffer, but if an employee is struggling with substance abuse they may also be more prone to on-the-job injuries, disputes with co-workers, or even criminal activity. If you are a human resources professional, or a manager you know that it is vital to say something if you notice any of the signs of substance abuse in the workplace.

Can I Recognize the Signs of SUD?

Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD) in the workplace may look like this …

  • Tardiness, or sleeping on the job
  • After-effects of substance use (hangover, withdrawal) affecting job performance
  • Poor decision-making
  • Loss of efficiency
  • Theft
  • Lower morale of co-workers
  • Increased likelihood of having trouble with co-workers/supervisors or tasks
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work, interfering with attention and concentration
  • Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs to other employees
  • Higher turnover
  • Training of new employees
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Premature accidents
  • Injuries, or higher accident rates
  • Absenteeism/extra sick leave
  • Loss of production

If you think an employee may have an addiction, also consider these physical symptoms vomiting, shaking, falling asleep or acting jumpy and nervous. The human resources department should always be aware if any employee shows these signs of SUD. However, approaching someone in the workplace about an addiction may not be easy.

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How to Talk About SUD in the Workplace

If a peer, co-worker, manager, or anyone else in the workplace seems to be struggling with SUD, it is important that the human resources department is notified. Sensitivity is key to handling a situation involving substance abuse in the workplace properly. In order to avoid gossip, unprofessionalism, or embarrassment aim to discuss topics related to SUD at work only in private areas. This may include the break room, bathroom, manager’s office or human resources department.

If you are able to discuss the signs of SUD with someone at work, and they tell you that they in fact are abusing drugs or alcohol, assure them that it doesn’t mean they will lose their job. Medical leave is usually available at most places of business so, you can offer them the confidence that there is a way to get support and work with treatment options while keeping their employment.


Workplace Benefits for Employees with Addiction

Confidential medical leave can be requested and granted by the human resources department, so if the person is tested for illegal, or banned workplace substances they may still be covered by a health plan for treatment. If the employee with SUD on the job does not want to take time off in order to enter a traditional 12-step rehabilitation program, they may opt for another type of rehab. Further, holistic recovery therapies are available and may be covered by a company health insurance plan.

Beyond that, it is highly recommended that anyone struggling with SUD look into programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous and Pills Anonymous. These are FREE support group programs that meet throughout communities in the United States.

Achieving Long-Term Success

Working closely with healthcare professionals, any employee can regain their sobriety and re-enter the workforce. So, tackle any situation involving substance abuse in the workplace with confidence knowing that there are many treatment options. And if you have an employee that is currently out working on their recovery, call them and let them know that your door is still open if they need any assistance.

The road to recovery from substance abuse is common, but studies show that workplace stress is a main contributor to disorders such as SUD. So, it’s up to you to support your employees and let them know that you are there to help. Empower them to be the best they can be, with your assistance.


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