Drug Abuse in the Workplace

UPDATED: 5/4/2023

Signs of Workplace Drug Abuse

  • Attendance problems: Employees who abuse drugs are more likely to be late, call in sick and have last minutes absences. Employers can identify patterns like sick days falling on a Monday or Friday, or after payday.
  • Performance issues: Employees who abuse drugs often miss deadlines, turn in incomplete work or fail to complete assignments. Poor work performance and struggling with productivity are one of the most prominent signs of drug abuse in the workplace.
  • Strained work relationships: Employees who abuse drugs may be short tempered and argumentative and not get along with other co-workers.
  • Behavior issues: Certain behaviors may signal drug or alcohol abuse, either on or off the job. For instance, the smell of alcohol, bloodshot eyes or slurring speech are prominent behavioral signs of drug abuse. Similarly, excessive laughter, inappropriate loudness, excessive use of breath mints, avoiding meetings or sleeping at work can also translate into substance abuse.

How to Deal with Addiction in the Workplace

Just one of the signs above does not mean that there is drug abuse in the workplace. It is important for employers or supervisors to gather evidence if they suspect workplace drug abuse. Employers can gather evidence by documenting, with dates and time, performance and behavior problems. The following steps can be taken by employers who suspect employee drug abuse in the workplace:

  • Schedule a face to face: A face to face meeting can be scheduled between the employer/supervisor and the employee in a private place.
  • Tread lightly: The employer should not accuse the employee of drug abuse. Instead, the focus should be on the employee’s job performance. The employer can refer the employee to EAP (Employee Assistance program) and notify the employee of the consequences if performance and behavior are not changed.
  • Plan for Denial: Often times, employees will deny their addiction to substance abuse. If the employee refuses to get help from EAP and denies any wrongdoing, the employer should continue documenting the employee.
  • Avoid Enabling: Employers should not cover for employees, lend them money, give their work to others and make excuses for the employee when drug abuse is suspected.
  • Put policies in place: Employers can implement drug free workplace policies in writing by clearly explaining what they are and what they will not tolerate. Drug Test Kit USA offers a variety of drug test kits. View product selection here.
  • Offer Support: Employers can offer comprehensive health plans for getting treatment for substance abuse disorders.

Costs of Workplace Drug Abuse

Annual cost of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse is costing the country trillions of dollars annually in related crimes, lost work and health care.


 Health CareOverallYear Estimate Based On
Alcohol$27 billion$249 billion2010
Opioid Use Disorder$35 billion$471 billion2017
Tobacco$240 billion$600 billion2018
Illicit Drugs$118.5 billion$3.73 trillion2019

1) http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-08-04/addiction-in-the-workplace-tips-for-employers

2) https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm

3) https://recoverycentersofamerica.com/resource/economic-cost-of-substance-abuse-disorder-in-united-states-2019/

4) https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/health-econ-cost-of-injury/index.html

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