Last updated: November 27, 2023
As an increasing number of people underestimate or discount the effects of drugs, drug abuse has skyrocketed.
This makes it more important than ever before for employers to identify the signs of drug abuse and take appropriate action.
Armed with the proper knowledge, employers can reduce or eliminate the impact of drug abuse on employee safety, productivity, or morale.
Fortunately, identifying the signs of drug abuse in the workplace is relatively simple for an attentive employer once you know what to look for. Below are several common signs:
Changes in behavior
There may be a cause for concern if an ordinarily level-headed employee suddenly begins acting irrationally or aggressive. Likewise, a formerly talkative and outgoing employee who suddenly becomes reclusive for no apparent reason would raise a red flag.
Drugs have a negative effect on mental acuity, so if an employee’s performance rapidly declines, they seem disinterested in their job, or begin making frequent mistakes; it’s a good idea to evaluate them more closely.
Employees who are preoccupied with drugs tend to let their normal hygiene standards fall by the way side. Showing up for work with messy hair, dirty, rumpled clothes, or body odor is a common sign of drug abuse.
Drug use gives abusers a quick and intense high resulting from a rush of endorphins, but when the effects wear off, the abuser suffers a crash that can last from hours to days. This often produces symptoms of depression, fatigue, and aches and pains that cause them to call in sick or simply not show up.
When an ordinarily healthy employee has a major change in their health, absent a legitimate medical condition, it could be a sign of drug abuse. This could include rapid weight gain or loss, anxiety, fatigue, nausea, or skin conditions.
Signs of intoxication by specific drug:
- Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking and inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; a sweet burnt scent; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.
- Alcohol: Clumsiness; difficulty walking; slurred speech; sleepiness; poor judgment; dilated pupils.
- Cocaine, Crack, Meth, and Other Stimulants: Hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; dilated pupils; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
- Heroin: Needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing and sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite; contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light.
- Depressants: (including barbiturates and tranquilizers) Seems drunk as if from alcohol but without the associated odor of alcohol; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness; and contracted pupils.
- Inhalants: (Glues, aerosols, and vapors ) Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; anxiety; irritability
- Hallucinogens: Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.