Symptoms of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

How can you tell if an employee might have a substance abuse problem? He or she may have physical symptoms (chills, smell of alcohol, sweating, weight loss, physical deterioration) along with emotional (increased aggression, anxiety, burnout, denial, depression, paranoia) and/or behavioral symptoms (excessive talking, impaired coordination, irritability, lack of energy, limited attention span, poor motivation).  It is important to note, however, that if an employee displays these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean he/she has a substance abuse problem.

Signs that substance use may be a workplace hazard include:

Being unreliable, not being where he or she should be.

  •          Creating mishaps, being careless and repeatedly making mistakes.
  •          Damaging equipment or property.
  •          Being involved in numerous accidents.
  •          Displaying careless actions in the operation of hazardous materials or equipment.
  •          Showing a lack of detail in performing routine job duties.
  •          Being unwilling to follow directions and being argumentative.
  •          Giving elaborate, unbelievable excuses for not fulfilling responsibilities.
  •          Not carrying one’s load.
  •          Taking unnecessary risks.
  •          Disregarding safety for self and others.

An employee assistance program (EAP) can help managers and supervisors who suspect employee substance abuse deal with the situation appropriately, as well as help the individual find the treatment needed.