Drugs & alcohol in the workplace: Five signs a co-worker could be suffering from substance abuse

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If you suspect a co-worker is suffering from substance abuse, encourage them to seek professional help either via their GP, a local treatment service or a support group

Suzannah Robin, an alcohol and drug safety expert at AlcoDigital, has helped numerous companies across the UK with their testing policies and procedures. Here she lists the five signs that could mean a colleague is addicted to drugs or alcohol

Alcohol and drug-related deaths continue to be a problem in the UK, with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting that the number of people dying from alcohol and drug abuse has continued to increase over the last decade.

The issue extends far and wide, with many companies across the UK feeling the effects. In fact, according to the Department for Transport (DfT), drugs and alcohol cost British businesses in excess of £6 billion per year in lost productivity.

Many organisations have now put in place policies to test staff for drugs and alcohol. However, while having a procedure in place will help to identify issues, employers should also be actively encouraging employees to come forward, and offering assistance and access to treatment for staff who are struggling. [wlm_nonmember][…]

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[/wlm_nonmember] [wlm_ismember] The signs that someone is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction might not always be immediately apparent; symptoms could present themselves gradually and become progressively worse over time.

Lee Ali, Head of Medical at Broadway Lodge – a treatment centre for addiction, and the first in Europe to set up a treatment centre based on the 12-step model – explained: “It’s important to realise that people from all different backgrounds can be affected. Simply taking drugs or drinking alcohol does not mean you will have a problem with addiction as the issues surrounding substance abuse are much more complex.

“Unfortunately, alcohol and drug addiction are still regarded as big taboos and those suffering are often pigeonholed by society as ‘down and outs’ or ‘losers’. What many people don’t realise is that addiction is a mental health issue and illness. It can be triggered by numerous factors including stress, bereavement, relationship problems and financial difficulties. It is definitely not a lifestyle choice or an inability to maintain self-control or willpower.”

So what should you be looking out for? Although symptoms vary depending on the substance being abused, here are five common indications that a co-worker could be suffering from addiction.

  • Erratic behaviour and unpredictable mood swings: an individual may be happy and full of energy one minute, and then lethargic, depressed and irritable the next. He or she may also lose interest in activities and hobbies they’ve previously enjoyed, or become socially withdrawn and isolated.
  • Poor timekeeping and absenteeism: consistently turning up to work late and regularly taking time off could both be warning signs – particularly if there is a pattern for such occurrences taking place following the weekend or a stretch of annual leave.
  • Work-related performance issues: an inability to carry out basic tasks efficiently or effectively and an overall deterioration in the quality and quantity of work being completed.
  • Personal hygiene: neglecting cleanliness & grooming.
  • Turning up looking dishevelled and unkempt.

Injuries and other physical changes: unexplained injuries, shaking, incoherent speech, bloodshot eyes and frequent nosebleeds are all possible signs a person may be abusing drugs or alcohol.

There’s still a great amount that needs to be done to continue addressing and raising awareness of alcohol and drug abuse, particularly in the workplace. Employers are starting to lean more towards implementing best practice testing policies and procedures as part of their health and safety standards. The next step is to ensure we aren’t simply trying to make a problem ‘disappear’ by handing over a P45, but are educated enough to recognise and deal with addiction and help individuals on the road to recovery.

Drugsline: 08081606606

Drinkline: 03001231110