Signs that an employee has a substance abuse issue

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Garth often was late for work and took a lot of breaks during the day, but he was the best press operator in the plant. His supervisor would cover for him, and Garth always had a good excuse and promised to make up the lost time.

That never happened.

One day, Garth forgot to lock the machine before he made an adjustment. Both he and a workmate are now permanently disabled. Garth later admitted to long-standing addiction and drug use on the job.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor are a stark reminder for business owners or managers. Employees with substance abuse problems are 25 to 30 percent less productive and miss three times more work than a nonabusing colleague.

Addicts and alcoholics using on the job cause 65 percent of all work-related accidents. This creates added stress to the workplace, and costs the economy $100 billion each year.

The cost of ignoring addiction for any business is much too high. It weakens performance, tears down morale and can significantly affect the bottom line. The business that doesn’t get serious about addiction is putting itself at risk.

The signs of addiction are not always easy to spot since addicts and alcoholics become very good at hiding their disease. However, often there are telltale signs:

• Absenteeism and tardiness.

• Errors in judgment.

• Difficulty concentrating or remembering information.

• Inconsistent performance.

• Excessive breaks during the workday.

• Mood swings, anxiety or short-tempered behavior.

Too often businesses are hesitant to confront addiction, preferring to avoid it with the explanation that it is a “personal problem.” That is a dangerous option, because it means they are either permitting efficiency to decline, or waiting for an accident to happen.

Addiction should not go unnoticed.

If you suspect a drug or alcohol problem, require a random drug test. Make sure that managers are on the lookout for signs that other employees are protecting another worker – enabling just allows an addiction to grow and get worse.

Refer the employee to human resources or an employee assistant program to be assessed and to get the help he or she needs.

People with an addiction rarely recover without outside help. Helping addicts and alcoholics get the help they need is not only good for all employees, it’s good for business.

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