According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million Americans adults battled a substance abuse disorder in 2017. 74% experienced an alcohol addiction, while 36% had an illicit drug addiction. 

Addiction in the workplace can not only cause disharmony within the organization, but also bring about unforeseen safety hazards. So, what are the signs of someone experiencing addiction, how does addiction affect workplace safety and how can you help someone suffering from addiction? 

Symptoms of addiction can include: personality or mood changes; frequent prolonged absences from work, usually without notification; “rollercoaster” work performance, swinging up and down between high and low productivity; deteriorating relationships with coworkers; an unusual number of mistakes caused by inattention, poor judgment and bad decisions; and an unwillingness to take responsibility and blaming others for their own errors. 

Addiction can happen to anyone within your organization—from the owner to the lowest-paid employee. If someone’s daily duties are to operate heavy or dangerous equipment, an addiction can be life threatening, not only for the operator, but for those working around them. A high level employee suffering from addiction can make poor choices that can negatively impact the short-term and long-term future of the organization. 

There are ways to help employees struggling with substance abuse. If you’re an employer, providing a group health insurance plan that covers substance abuse treatment and counseling; approaching employees who may be abusing drugs in a positive, non-confrontational way; and giving the employee the option to seek treatment privately without concern of consequence are all ways to jumpstart the process of getting the employee mentally, emotionally and physically healthy again. If you’re not in management, but you suspect a coworker is abusing substances, don’t wait until tragedy strikes, there are ways you can help now.

 

Shelby Kimes is a Marketing Content Writer in the marketing department for NC State Industrial Expansion Solutions. She writes marketing content for various IES and media platforms to communicate the services and values of IES. She also writes the marketing material needed to alert existing and/or potential clients of any updates within IES. She previously interned with the marketing department at Greenville Parks and Recreation in North Carolina. Shelby graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor’s in Sports Studies and a Minor in Marketing/Business Administration.