Detecting Substance Abuse in the Workplace


Individuals who are struggling with substance abuse often display similar symptoms, or signs. It’s important to recognize these symptoms, as recognition is the first step towards getting professional help that may save a life. Studies have shown that over 77% of illicit drug users are employed, demonstrating how likely it is that someone in your workplace may be struggling. To educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of substance abuse in the workplace, please take a look at the list below:

1. Unexplained absences/tardiness from work: We’ve learned in previous BLOGS that substance abuse reduces an individuals’ performance and capability in the workplace. They are often unable to fulfill their responsibilities, so looking out for a multitude of unexplained absences is an important step in identifying substance abuse.

2.  Frequent trips to the bathroom: Finding a private area, like a bathroom, to stash or consume drugs is not uncommon for those struggling with substance abuse. They may also experience nausea or drug/alcohol-related side-effects, which will send them to the bathroom more frequently.

3. Personality changes: Similar to symptom #1, an individuals’ performance and motivation may be affected while under the influence. They may also become moody and irritable for no apparent cause.

4. Physical changes: The common physical symptoms of addiction include slurred or incoherent speech, poor balance or reflex, nausea, sweaty and shaky hands, red/glassy eyes, poor personal hygiene, and a runny nose

5. Deteriorating relationships with coworkers: This is most likely caused by the personality changes described in symptom #3. If you notice that a coworker or employee is isolating themselves, or acting in a more irritable/paranoid manner, this may be a telltale sign of substance abuse.

[For more signs and symptoms of drug abuse in the workplace, please click here.]


In order to maintain a healthy, safe, and productive workplace, it’s important for employers to drug test their employees. This is a service that Precede Occupational Health provides. For more information on our drug testing services, please click here.

Identifying when an individual is struggling with substance abuse is important as it not only keeps all employees in the workplace safe, but also allows the individual who is struggling to find professional help. Substance abuse in the workplace threatens everyone’s safety, but educating yourself on the signs and symptoms helps reduce the dangerous implications that can be associated.

Want to learn more about how Precede can help your company and your employees? Click here.