Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace: Signs to Look Out For

New officeThere are many things employers must always remain conscious of, not the least of which is alertness to whether drug and alcohol abuse may be occurring in the workplace. While pre-employment drug testing can help reduce the likelihood of on-the-job intoxication, it isn’t foolproof, so it’s important that employers know how to recognize signs of abuse.

Drug and alcohol problems affect not only the employee in question, but also the employer by increasing the risk of on-the-job accidents, heightened worker’s comp or health insurance claims, and loss of productivity. These all have the potential to negatively impact the bottom line. In order to help employers recognize when drug or alcohol abuse is occurring, the following is a list of common signs that it may be time to insist on employee drug testing.

1. Work Attendance

Drug and alcohol abusers are 10 times more likely to miss work on a consistent basis. If frequent absences and tardiness occurs regularly, the first step should be to ask the employee for an explanation. If the poor job reliability continues to go unexplained over a longer period of time, the employer has every right to inquire further and, if deemed appropriate, conduct drug testing to determine whether the employee is putting the business at risk.

2. Production Level

Oftentimes, drug or alcohol abuse will cause a consistently high-performing employee to suddenly begin to flail in terms of job performance. Fellow coworkers will often have to pick up the slack, which has the potential to greatly decrease business productivity as a whole. An unexplained drop in productivity can be another important indicator that employee drug testing may be warranted.

3. Obvious Physical and Emotional Changes

In addition to punctuality and production problems, the following physical and emotional signs may give you reason to suspect drug and alcohol abuse, thus validating your request for drug testing:

  • The employee comes to work with no care about personal hygiene.
  • The employee consistently overreacts to real or imagined criticism.
  • The employee displays signs of regular exhaustion or hyperactivity, dilated pupils, slurred speech or an unsteady walk.
  • The employee has bloodshot or glassy eyes, with a persistent cough.
  • The employee displays increased energy and enthusiasm, followed by extreme mood swings.

[ Photo by: Phillie Casablanca, on Flickr, via CC License ]


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