OSEA Safety Blog

Substance Abuse at Work

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 Ariana Naumovski

Substance abuse in the workplace is no joke and it is unfortunately on the rise, “Approximately 16% of emergency room patients injured at work had alcohol in their system”. People of all races, ethnicities, genders, and work positions can abuse drugs or alcohol at work so it is important to pay attention to common signs of workplace substance abuse.

Signs of substance abuse at work can include:

  • Frequent tardiness
  • Falling asleep on the job
  • Incoherent
  • Poor/faulty decision making
  • Increased rate of accidents/injuries
  • Avoids working with others and members of management
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Missing deadlines/appointments
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Taking a long time to complete a simple task
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Sweating
  • Easily agitated

Having workers that abuse legal or illegal substances in the workplace has a significant financial impact. Each year, employers pay over $740 billion in direct and indirect costs related to drug and alcohol abuse at work alone. These costs go towards medical and insurance costs, training new employees to replace the substance abuser, and even paying for more frequent drug testing of employees.

Additional effects & costs of substance abuse in the workplace:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased risk of accidents/injuries
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Decreased worker morale
  • Theft

Substance abuse in the workplace doesn’t only affect the individual under the influence, but coworkers, the property, and the public as well. It has a significant impact on the entire organization. It is important that employees are made aware of the general signs so it can be brought to a member of management’s attention as soon as possible to prevent an accident/incident from occurring. If your organization has an employee assistance program, refer them to it to begin getting help. There is more to substance abuse than just doing drugs or drinking alcohol. Compassion can go a long way in helping someone be successful in their efforts to kick this bad habit to the curb. A workplace free of drugs and alcohol is a happy, healthy, and safe workplace.

If you or someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, please reach out to the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by calling 800-662-HELP.










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