Recognizing Substance Abuse in a Coworker

Dealing with addiction is like throwing a pebble into a calm pond – it has a ripple effect. 

Someone who is dealing with alcoholism or opioid abuse will generally have these problems spill over into other aspects of their life, including their professional life. Substance abuse is a dangerous and deadly ordeal – in fact, there were over 67,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018 alone primarily driven by opioid overdoses. This doesn’t even include alcohol deaths.

Because a person suffering from addiction will likely have their issues bleed into different facets of their lives, it is not uncommon for friends, family, or even coworkers to notice their personal and professional changes in their day-to-day lives.

If you do recognize these problems, it can be best to seek professional help on what do next, but the first step is getting you to this point.

Let’s examine some of the common signs of substance abuse in the workplace.

Recognizing Addiction in a Coworker

There are numerous physical and behavioral signs of drug or alcohol abuse from a coworker. Being able to point these out and recognize them will give you a chance to offer some help.

Using drugs or alcohol can lead to serious changes in physical appearance, hygiene, and more – all of which are fairly recognizable to coworkers who see each other five days out of the week.

Some of these common physical changes include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Frequently tired or falling asleep
  • Sniffling a lot or a runny nose
  • Slurred speech
  • Regular nausea or even vomiting

Coworkers who are dealing with alcoholism, specifically, will often smell of alcohol – either on their breath or their body entirely.

Along with these noticeable physical changes, they are often accompanied by behavioral and social changes which can affect someone’s work. These include:

  • Reduced productivity
  • Increased workload on others
  • Absent from work 
  • Sudden mood changes
  • General irritability
  • Dishonesty

If you do notice many of these things in your coworker, there is a chance they may be dealing with some sort of drug or alcohol problem. But, what are the next steps? 

Seeking Professional Help

If you are worried your coworker is dealing with drug or alcohol addiction and you fear for their safety, there are a number of ways you can handle it. 

If you don’t want to be too involved in the process, you can always reach out to your boss or human resources department. Tell them you think your coworker may struggle with some sort of substance abuse issue and you want to help them. Many companies have processes in place to help people in these situations and these individuals will best know how to proceed.

If your coworker is someone whom is close to you, you can always take a more hands-on approach. When talking to them about the problem the best thing you can do is offer actionable solutions. 

One thing you can do is look into what options your company offers in regards to rehab. Many organizations have employee assistance programs (EAPs) in place to help employees struggling from problems such as substance abuse.

Along with these, you can also look in to local rehabs near you to help your coworker overcome these dangerous habits. There are many drug and alcohol rehabs across the nation available to treat opioid addiction, alcoholism, and more. 

When it comes to finding local treatment, the most important part is knowing what to look for.

Finding a Local Rehab

When scouring the web for help for a coworker’s addiction, there are a few key things you want to look for with each rehab you are looking into:

  1. Accredited Facility and Licensed Staff – This may seem like a no-brainer but you want to be sure the facility you are vetting has the proper credentials and the staff is licensed to properly help their patients. Specifically, you want to ensure the facility has a Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission, this is a telltale sign these things are in order.
  2. Evidence-Based Care – Along with the facility and staff, you need to look at the offerings. Make sure the rehab is offering clients access to care backed by evidence. One major red flag is a rehab which offers a one-size-fits-all approach or a silver bullet to treatment. Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for others. Examples of evidence-based treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment.
  3. Mental Health Treatment – When it comes to addiction, the problem is often a co-occurring disorder along with certain mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, this is what is referred to as a dual diagnosis. Be sure whatever facility you find offers dual diagnosis treatment programs. If these problems aren’t handled, there is a very high chance of relapse.

These are just a few things you should look for when doing research. To best understand what a facility has to offer, you can call the admissions team. They will also be able to guide you on what the next steps are.

If you are noticing a coworker acting strange or vastly different, you should check for signs which may indicate they are dealing with some sort of addiction issue. If you do notice changes which point toward substance abuse it is vital you get them the help they need, otherwise the problem will likely only get worse and may even become deadly.

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