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4 symptoms of a drug-using employee to watch for

Drug Use on the Job

Pick up a paper, magazine, watch the news or check your favorite social media and you will be inundated with information about the opioid epidemic.  As an employer, would you recognize drug abuse in the workplace?  Do you know what symptoms to look for?  Knowing what to look for and having a basic understanding and knowledge of your employees is a good start.  There are other clues to help you navigate the drug awareness arena.  The number one clue for drug awareness in the workplace is changes in behavior.  To fully assess that you need to know your employees – Do you understand normal behavior?  What is their daily routine?  What are their habits?  Who are their friends in the office?  Do you monitor social media?   Beyond that, there are some other subtle things you can watch for.

  • Alcohol – Pay attention to the smell. Monitor for any slurred speech, red eyes, poor manual dexterity and/or fumbling with simple tasks.  Do they make extra trips to the parking lot, miss work, over utilize gum, candy, breath mints?
  • Marijuana – There is a definitive smell associated with marijuana use. Additionally, users are prone to day-dreaming, bloodshot eyes and the proverbial “munchies” associated with marijuana use.
  • Heroin/Opioids – Are your employees continually fatigued? Do they wear long sleeves and prone to tardiness?  Do they have dilated pupils, or are lethargic and found sleeping at their work station?  Are track marks visible?
  • Methamphetamine – Continued use of meth will result in meth mouth, sores and They make continue to ask for money or borrow from co-workers.  There is a distinctive ammonia/cat urine smell associated with the use of meth.

Should an employee be a user, be aware of how they will conceal their drug of choice.  It could be in Tupperware or standard water bottle or soda can that has a pull apart feature or any number of household items all sold on the internet.

If drug use is suspected, the reporting system should be in place to allow for anonymous reporting with no repercussions for those reporting.  Does the HR department have policies and procedures in place to handle any instances?  What is the plan for the employee?  Suspension, in-house employee assistance, termination?  Consider the potential for threats made to the staff and supervisors for dealing with these issues.

While these may be basic guidelines for suspected drug awareness, be careful in judging.  Make sure that the incident can be fully substantiated before rushing to judgment.  Operating in this framework can alleviate future problems/issues in dealing with your employees.

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