According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, as many as 1 in 13 people in the United States are in need of treatment for substance abuse issues; Some individuals might even recognize the signs of addiction in their loved ones. This translates to an estimated 20.7 million people aged 12 or older.
This means that the odds you know or work with someone struggling with addiction is pretty high. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), more than 70 percent of those abusing illicit drugs in America are employed, as are most binge drinkers. The most common illicit drugs abused on the job are marijuana and cocaine.
Substance abuse in the workplace can lead to disastrous consequences, from lowered productivity to dangerous accidents. The added stress of withdrawal while dealing with the pressure of work can contribute to poor mental health and unsafe conditions.
If you are worried about a coworker possibly abusing drugs and alcohol, here are the signs to keep an eye out for:
Falling Asleep at Work/Constantly Tired
Head nodding, bags under eyes, constant yawning… For most individuals this is just the result of the occasional week night libation, from HBO Sunday premieres to Monday Night Football to Thirsty Thursdays. However, if these conditions describe your coworker more often than not, there could be an issue.
Drug and alcohol addiction take its toll on the mind and body, and being constantly exhausted while at work is a sign that someone could be abusing substances.
Frequent Mistakes/Slip Ups
This could just be the sign of a poor employee, but if your coworker starts making frequent mistakes despite having been competent enough previously, it could be the sign of a worsening substance abuse problem.
Frequent Bathroom Trips & Breaks
If they take much more than the average number of bathroom trips, or take one too many breaks per day to disappear, this could be another sign of substance abuse.
Extreme Mood Swings
Substance abuse produces major changes in an individual’s temperament. Addiction can cause massive fluctuations in emotional well being due to the chemical changes taking place in the brain.
Disappearance of Valuables & Company Property
Although not always a sign of a coworker struggling with addiction, the disappearance of company valuables can indicate someone who is desperate for some money. While most thieves would not be brazen enough to steal things from their place of work, an addict is in a desperate position to acquire their fix.
Missed Appointments & Deadlines
If your coworker has a chronic inability to appropriately meet deadlines and appointments in addition to other suspicions about drug use, this could be a sign that they are abusing substances.
Drug and alcohol addiction also takes its toll on memory recall and typical brain functions. That’s why someone struggling with addiction may seem to have trouble remembering certain events. They may have also been intoxicated during that time and do not recall what happened.
Changes in Hygiene
As drug and alcohol addiction takes its toll on someone, one of the biggest factors to change is their own personal hygiene. If you start to notice someone have sudden changes in their dress and appearance, or struggle to maintain a respectful level of hygiene in the workplace, it could be an indication that they are struggling with addiction.
Recovery in the Workplace
A growing field of research is suggesting that recovery programs in the workplace can help individuals to quit abusing drugs and avoid relapse. Research into incentive-based recovery programs was conducted by Matthew Walton, instructor at the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work.
Walton describes the two main approaches to workplace recovery research: one views employment as benchmark of successful recovery. The other area of research focuses on whether being employed is a therapeutic intervention in and of itself.
Since 1996, researchers have wondered about the possibility of paid employment being a deterrent to relapse. The prominent model, which includes regular drug testing from urine samples along with continued employee reviews, has proven to be effective in promoting abstinence from heroin and cocaine among individuals who have struggled staying sober on their own.
Work alone is not what keeps people sober, but researchers like Kenneth Silverman of John Hopkins say that money and accountability are what really work. In other words, structured incentives. Paid work and money can be powerful incentives for individuals to at least stay sober for the time being, which could help them achieve long term sobriety. Having structure is an important part of addiction recovery. Many people who struggle with addiction often turn to substances when their lives feel unmanageable or out of their control. Having a job gives a person structure to their life.
You can learn more about relapse prevention strategies or how to recognize the signs of addiction at the Landmark Recovery blog. Landmark Recovery is a Louisville-based inpatient alcohol rehab center incorporating leading techniques and methods for giving the highest quality treatment available to recovering addicts.