Last updated: September 25, 2023
Drug addiction has been a serious problem in this country for decades—the last two especially. Moreover, during 2020, things went from bad to worse. The pandemic sent our country into lockdowns, lost jobs, kids out of school—the list, of course, goes on.
Many people suffering from addiction, as well as some of those in recovery, who became overwhelmed with the fear of the unknown, depression, or anxiety, turned to drugs to cope with their “new normal.” Couple that sad fact with the massive amounts of fentanyl that are being smuggled across the open border, and it’s no wonder that overdose deaths continue to rise.
Not only here in the United States but around the world.
Dealing with dark days
It’s no secret that some people turned to drugs or alcohol to cope with the abrupt changes that the pandemic brought into their lives. Some of them may be trying to keep a secret now that we’re back at work though.
Many drugs are highly addictive. And, when you add the fact that dealers are mixing fentanyl into their products to increase their bulk—and, thereby, their profit—addictions can form seemingly overnight. There are people who weren’t drug addicts when they were sent home early in 2020 but who came back to work with a substance abuse problem.
Hopefully, they will take responsibility for their mistake and seek help!
Some won’t though.
Probably for many of the same reasons they began using drugs in the first place—fear of the unknown, depression, and anxiety.
Signs of drug addiction
Substance abuse disorder is common in society today. Even so, many people who are suffering from an addiction manage to keep it hidden from coworkers, friends, and loved ones.
“People with addictions can look very different from one another, depending on their personality characteristics, the way in which their addiction affects their functioning and whether their addiction is complicated by other conditions, such as mental health problems,” says Suzette Glasner, an associate professor at UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.
Drug addiction has been classified as a chronic illness. Characterized by loss of control over substance use, it leads to compulsive use despite negative and, even, devastating consequences.
It’s important that people recognize the signs of addiction because the sooner someone receives help, the better.
We’re listing seven warning signs to watch out for in the workplace.
Neglecting important responsibilities—personal and professional
Drug addicts often struggle with getting into a cycle. It consists of heavy drug use, followed by remorse, failed attempts to quit, and resolving to do better. Then, they fall into heavy drug use again. While stuck in this cycle of existence, it’s common for people to be consistently late or absent from work.
After a time, people suffering from substance abuse are likely to start missing important events in both their personal and professional lives. Those events include things like weddings, family reunions, or important meetings with coworkers.
Isolating themselves from coworkers
There’s a lot of stigma and shame attached to addiction. Many people begin to keep to themselves as often as possible. If an employee begins to intentionally avoid people, it could be a sign of drug abuse.
The addict may experience embarrassment or feel ashamed being around coworkers. This may become more of an issue if the addict feels that others are becoming aware of their problem or if someone has confronted them about it.
Financial Issues Arise
The longer someone uses drugs, the greater their tolerance becomes. That means it’s going to take more drugs to reach the same effect. Drugs aren’t cheap and it may not be long before the drain on finances becomes very apparent.
Not to mention the fact that drug addicts are absent from work more often and once the sick days run out, it takes an immediate toll.
Some addicts begin to routinely ask for scheduled time off around payday which could be a sign of binging.
Lying or stealing
Addiction is a progressive illness. Once the brain is used to having the substance in the mix and has accepted it as normal, it sends out distress signals to the body when it’s absent. This is known as withdrawal and manifests in a number of ways depending on the substance.
It’s not a pleasant experience and can even become life-threatening in some instances.
Addicts become increasingly desperate if withdrawal symptoms are about to set in and can stoop to low levels to rid themselves of them—or to hold them at bay.
Making up reasons they need to ask others for money is probably one of the first tactics a drug addict tries to use to fund their habit. If that doesn’t work, they may begin stealing items from the office.
A decline in physical appearance and grooming
Using drugs consistently can affect one’s appetite causing rapid fluctuations in weight—usually as in dropping it. However, someone who has a problem with alcohol and drinks excessively oftentimes has a problem with weight gain.
Heavy drug use can also cause someone to feel fatigued all the time. On the other hand, someone who uses stimulants, such as methamphetamine, for instance, can exhibit brief bursts of extreme energy or odd behaviors. Prolonged use of methamphetamines causes physical effects on the body that are quite noticeable. Severe tooth decay and tooth loss, a gaunt appearance, and skin sores are common.
People caught up in the throes of drug addiction tend to appear more and more disheveled in appearance as time goes on. This may be mainly due to their inability to focus on anything but obtaining their next fix.
Difficulty with concentration or memory
Drug use affects the ability to think clearly. Someone under the influence of drugs can have trouble staying focused on their tasks. They may not be able to remember the next step in a process they’ve been performing since day one on the job.
The inability to think clearly puts them at a higher risk of being involved in a workplace accident. It increases the odds for anyone working around them as well.
Impaired job performance
If a stellar employee’s job performance begins to suffer, it’s a sure sign that something is going on. It could be due to upheaval within the family or a number of other reasons, of course. However, it could also be a sign of drug use on the job.
Sudden errors in judgment when clear thinking had been the norm in the past could indicate that your employee is abusing drugs.
Looking to the future
If you suspect an employee is using drugs and have a drug-free program in place, odds are that you have a Reasonable Suspicion policy already written up.
If so, have your management team follow the procedure to the letter. They usually require documenting any signs of drug abuse in writing before addressing the employee about taking a drug test. If the test comes back positive, how you handle the situation can make a difference in the employee’s life in either a positive or negative manner.
Some employers offer employees a second chance. This can seem like a godsend to someone who is in fear of losing their job. The majority, though, have drug-free policies in place that stipulate immediate termination. Even if that’s the case in your company, how you handle the conversation could be the catalyst that encourages them to seek help.
No one wakes up one day and says, “I think I’ll form a drug addiction.” Exhibit kindness and compassion. Witnessing a kind and caring attitude coupled with receiving information about where to seek help in your area could actually save their life.