6 Tips for Handling Drug Abuse in the Workplace


Addressing suspected drug abuse by an employee can be a daunting challenge. Making strong accusations creates legal woes for your organization and influences a suffering, under performing worker to tune you out. Look for warning signs and address the individual in a compassionate, caring manner to effectively handle drug abuse in the workplace.

Spot the Signals

Identifying potential red flags can help you spot a worker who might be abusing drugs. Noting withdrawn, suspicious, irritable, depressed or agitated behavior after work breaks can signal problems. Bloodshot eyes, an unkempt appearance, poor hygiene and hand tremors are other possible signs of abuse. Keep an eye out for uncharacteristically poor work results, over-confidence and a particularly argumentative nature. Seeing a handful of these factors combined might indicate that one of your employees is abusing drugs.

Avoid Rushing to Judgment

A handful or personal or professional problems can lead to the above behavior. Carefully assess the situation to determine if a drug problem exists. Do not be concerned about seeing one symptom or sign. Tune into strong patterns.  A formerly punctual, cooperative worker who arrives to work habitually late, returns from breaks with slurred speech and uncharacteristically behaves rudely toward employees might be having substance abuse problems. Consult your human resources department or manager before you decide to confront the individual.

Speak to the Individual

Find a quiet, private spot. Chat about the potential issue. Note how you have noticed a stark change in behavior. Adopt a non-resistant approach to disarm your co-worker.Ask for another manager or supervisor to join you for documenting the conversation. Share behavioral irregularities but avoid mentioning any suspicion of drug abuse. Distressed, abusing individuals rarely share the truth freely if peppered with questions or comments in an accusatory tone. The discussion should strictly cover work performance issues. Avoid acting in an angry, threatening manner.


By listening freely you can gain the trust of your co-worker. If they admit to having a drug problem involve management. Individuals who continually deny their problem yet underperform in their work setting can be rightfully reprimanded or terminated.

Take the Step for Healing

Ask your employee to get help. Allow professional care providers to offer solutions. Your job is to direct your co-worker to the proper resources for healing. You can refer them to community agencies or company programs to facilitate the treatment process. Document any help the employee decides to receive. Schedule a follow up appointment to discuss progress. Firing an individual who suffers from drug abuse without taking any steps to treat their problem can create a difficult situation for your business. In some areas substance addiction is considered a disability. Terminating an individual can create legal problems for your organization and prevent co-workers with similar issues from coming forward to get help.

Draft a Formal Policy

Draft an official drug policy for your organization. Recognize the signs of abuse and offer a compassionate helping hand to address the situation appropriately.

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