Workplace Drug Abuse Warning Signs

cocaine(Post written by Rick Dacri, April 4, 2016)

Recently I received a call from one of my utility clients who was positive that his operator was high on cocaine. Seems the employee had been missing work and today he came to work appearing a bit agitated and quite talkative and his pupils were dilated. My client had heard he did drugs and with his recent absences and rumors that he was a druggie, he called me asking if it was ok to fire him.

While the employee might have been on drugs, clinical diagnosis of a drug problem is not the job of the manager. The manager’s job is to assess performance. If the employee was performing erratically, posing a potential danger to himself or others, then the manager has a responsibility to step in; but never to diagnose. Managers are not qualified to do this and acting on rumor or evaluating behavior based on what you may have read on the Internet is asking for trouble. Stick to performance. A key part of every manager’s job is to remain alert to changes in an employee’s performance and to work with the employee who is having problems so that performance improves.

Substance abuse in the workplace is very costly. It’s been estimated that substance abuse costs employers more than $50 billion annually and alcohol and drug abusers are far less productive, use three times as many sick days, and are more than three times as likely to have an accident on the job and five times as likely to file workers’ compensation claims.

While one should never diagnose, managers should be mindful of the warning signs that an employee may be getting into trouble. Watch for these:

  1. Inconsistent work quality
  2. Poor concentration
  3. Lowered productivity
  4. Increased absenteeism
  5. Unexplained disappearances from the jobsite
  6. Carelessness, mistakes
  7. Errors in judgment
  8. Needless risk-taking
  9. Disregard for safety
  10. Extended lunch periods and early departures
  11. Complaints about problems at home
  12. Deterioration in personal appearance
  13. Complaints and excuses of vaguely-defined illnesses
  14. Frequent financial problems
  15. Avoidance of friends and colleagues
  16. Blaming others for own problems and shortcomings

When an employee begins to exhibit these, it is time for the manager to take immediate action. In my upcoming webinar series (How to Deal with Substance Abuse in the Workplace) I will be addressing, in detail, the warning signs, how to handle an impaired employee, the law around medical marijuana, DOT requirements, signs that an employee is under the influence and more.

For more info, click How to Deal with Substance Abuse in the Workplace or email me at

Other Posts You May Want To Read:

  1. Booze At Work: Options to Combat
  2. Medical Marijuana Law
  3. New Maine Pot Law Clouds Rules on Drug Use

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Filed under Compliance, Management, Uncategorized

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