What are the Signs of Substance Use Disorder in the Workplace?

substance use disorder in the workplace

A common myth about someone struggling with substance use disorder is they are jobless. But in reality, over 70 percent of those misusing drugs or alcohol are employed. However, substance abuse in the workplace costs companies $81 billion a year!

Signs of Substance Misuse in the Workplace

Addiction in the workplace leads to a loss in productivity and increases absenteeism. But above all, it increases workplace injuries and fatalities. However, some people struggling with addiction may be considered “high-functioning.”

People who are “high-functioning” reach their professional and personal goals despite their drug abuse in the workplace. And, although substance misuse isn’t interfering with their job, it still isn’t healthy. 

So, how do you know if your coworker is using drugs or alcohol at work? Most people struggling with substance use disorder try hard to hide it from their employers and coworkers. But, there are some obvious signs of substance abuse in the workplace which include:

  • Behaviors extremely different from co-workers
  • Avoiding friends and other co-workers
  • Making mistakes and blaming others
  • Talking about money issues
  • Relationship problems 
  • A decline in personal hygiene
  • Missing work for unexplained issues

Because addiction in the workplace is so common, companies often train management to recognize the signs of substance use disorder

The Effects of Drug Use in the Workplace

Drug abuse in the workplace is costly to employers and dangerous for employees. Besides accidents, deaths, and production loss, addiction in the workplace causes:

  • Tardiness and sleeping on the job
  • Hangovers and withdrawal symptoms affect performance.
  • Poor decision making
  • Theft
  • Lowers co-workers moral
  • Causes tension between co-workers
  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Focusing more on using drugs or alcohol than the job
  • Selling or buying drugs at work
  • High turnover rates

Workplace Environments That Influence Substance Use

The majority of jobs are a source of anxiety and stress.  With deadlines, bosses adding to the to-do list, and unreasonable customers, it can be challenging to leave work at work. And even if you love your job, this becomes overwhelming.

While many people find healthy outlets such as exercise to relieve work stress, others head to their local bar for a couple of drinks. But, using drugs or alcohol to cope with work stress is a dangerous habit. 

Factors that influence drug abuse in the workplace include:

  • High-stress levels
  • Boredom
  • Sexual harassment
  • Availability of drugs or alcohol
  • Acceptance in the culture
  • Non-enforcement of drug-free policies

Jobs With the Highest Rate of Substance Misuse

While all jobs may be stressful, there are a few jobs where substance abuse in the workplace is more prominent. Keep reading to find out which jobs have the highest rate of drug abuse in the workplace. 

Hospitality and Food Service Workers

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2015 shows employees in restaurants and hotels, along with food-service contractors, have the highest rates of drug abuse in the workplace. 

While almost 17 percent struggle with substance use disorder, illicit drug use is more alarming at over 19 percent. Risk factors of this industry that influence addiction in the workplace include:

  • High-stress environment
  • Low wages
  • High-turnover
  • Irregular hours
  • Demanding or difficult customers

Doctors and Healthcare Workers

When Covid-19 struck the U.S., Americans across the country saw just how stressful this profession is. The long hours, people dying, and no time for a break takes a physical, emotional, and mental toll. 

Add in the ease of access to prescription medications, and it’s easy to see why up to 14 percent of healthcare professionals struggle with substance abuse in the workplace. However, they are not only putting their health at risk; addiction in the workplace also puts patient’s lives in danger. 

Lawyers and Legal Professionals

The American Bar Association conducted a survey in 2016 of over 13,000 lawyers. The study found 1 in 5 lawyers struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD). This number is twice the rate of those with the same education level. 

Sales Professionals

Whether retail or real estate, sales employees often struggle with drug abuse in the workplace. According to SAMHSA, 10.9% of real estate and 10.3% of retail workers used illicit drugs last month.

First Responders

First responders such as police and firefighters work under very stressful conditions. The demanding work hours, emergency situations, and time away from family can lead to substance abuse in the workplace. 

For example, substance use disorder in the general public is around 10 percent. But, in police officers, it can be up to 30 percent. While, 60 percent of firefighters, who face similar challenges as police, struggle with heavy or binge drinking.

Can I Lose My Job for Seeking Treatment of Substance Use in the Workplace?

It can be embarrassing and scary to admit to your employer that you need to seek treatment for addiction in the workplace. In fact, it is one of the main reasons people don’t seek help. Another is the fear of losing their job. 

Because over 70 percent of those struggling with substance use disorder are employed, they have bills to pay and typically have families to support. So, losing their job is not an option. 

But, there are laws to protect employees and their job while seeking treatment. Because addiction is a medically recognized chronic disease, a person seeking treatment is protected from being fired.

Americans with Disabilities Act and Drug Use in the Workplace

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination when seeking treatment for substance abuse in the workplace. Once you enter treatment, the ADA protects you from being fired due to your addiction or treatment of your addiction. This act applies to all government jobs and companies with 15 or more employees. 

Family and Medical Leave Act and Substance Use in the Workplace

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows individuals 12 weeks of leave each year for medical reasons. This reason can include treatment for substance abuse in the workplace. 

However, FMLA is typically unpaid time off, and many people cannot afford to miss the paychecks. But in this case, there are assistance programs and community services that may be able to help. 

Treatment Options for Substance Use in the Workplace

Most experts agree that inpatient treatment of substance abuse in the workplace offers the best chance at recovery. But, as mentioned, this is not always an option. Treatment centers like Sana Lake Recovery provide various programs to meet your individual needs. 

Inpatient Treatment for Drug Use in the Workplace

Residential or inpatient treatment provides the highest level of supervision in the treatment of addiction in the workplace. Members receive individual therapy and various behavioral therapies with 24-hour monitoring and care. This structured treatment allows members to focus on their recovery without outside triggers and stressors. 

Partial Hospitalization Program for Substance Use in the Workplace

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) are often the next step after completing inpatient treatment. Members return to their home and work environment while attending treatment during the day. Generally, members attend 40 hours a week of intensive individual and group therapies.

Intensive Outpatient Program for Addiction in the Workplace

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are for members who are secure enough in recovery to be more independent. Members still have access to all the programs offered in more intensive treatment. However, they only attend treatment 9 to 12 hours a week.

Should I Leave My Stressful Job After Addiction Treatment?

If your job comes with high levels of stress, it may be time to find another job. This is especially true if your job is a trigger for substance abuse in the workplace. But, before you make a decision, there are a few things to consider. 

It is illegal for any employer to discuss an employee’s reason for medical leave. So, if you are embarrassed and worried about co-workers knowing you struggle with addiction in the workplace, they probably don’t know. 

Starting a new job comes with its own set of stressors and triggers. Meeting new people and taking on new responsibilities comes with the risk of relapse. However, returning to a stressful job that led to substance abuse in the workplace may be a bigger trigger.

As you learn in treatment, your health and recovery are your number one priority. So, if you are struggling with the decision to stay or leave your job, your therapist and support team can help make the best choice for your recovery. 

Sana Lake Recovery Can Help You!

Does the stress at work have you popping pills with lunch to cope with the stress from your boss? Do you need that beer halfway through your shift because the customers are driving you crazy? 

If you are struggling with addiction in the workplace, the comprehensive treatment programs at Sana Lake Recovery can help. Find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety by contacting us today. 

References:

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1959/ShortReport-1959.pdf

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-can-workplace-play-role-in-substance-abuse-treatment