What You Should Do if You Suspect a Co-Worker is High

Sometimes people are able to easily hide their addictions. This may mean coming to work under the influence of certain substances that make them feel high or even drunk. Some people are able to mask the effects of drugs so well that they are able to easily fool others around them. A true addict will learn to adjust and be around others while trying to hide what’s really going on under the surface. However, after some time, co-workers, friends, and loved ones may become suspicious of what could really be going on.

Signs That Someone Might be High at Work

While drugs have different effects from person to person, here are a few possible signs to look for in a co-worker who is high:

  • Being late to work excessively, tardy on a consistent basis
  • Mood swings
  • Taking longer than usual for lunch
  • Hand tremors, shaking
  • Seeming “out of it”, mind is somewhere else
  • Poor work quality
  • Appearance is declining, looking unkempt

Keep in mind that just one or two of these signs is not enough to indicate that a co-worker is definitely high, but they do warrant a watchful eye.

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reports that around 15 percent of American workers show up to work under the influence — that’s approximately 19.2 million people. Perhaps surprisingly, it is managers, rather than employees, who have been found to be more likely to come to work under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, including marijuana.

Direct Confrontation: A Good Idea or Not?

Confronting an addict directly about the issue at hand is usually ends up being an unsuccessful attempt to help the person who has the substance abuse problem. Instead of directly confronting them about the issue, it usually better for a manager to talk to the employee about their poor work performance or change in behavior. The issue should be discussed openly with the manager. After discussing the performance issue, the manager should try to talk with the employee to get to the bottom of the issue.

Support Instead of Shame

While some employers may be quick to fire an employee who comes to work high often, this is the wrong approach to take. Experts encourage co-workers and managers to show support to individuals who come to work high or have a substance abuse problem. This method will help individuals get the support they need and return to a healthy state of functioning. Alternatively, firing the individual could very likely only service to spiral them deeper into an addiction, leaving them jobless and with high anxieties that will make their compulsion to use the substance even greater.

The support of both management as well as co-workers is highly encouraged during a situation like this. I encourage employers to show support and encourage the individual to seek the help of an professional. An inpatient program can help treat the issue and provide an array of benefits, including working through underlying problems. When an individual turns to a substance to get high, it is usually to “escape” or numb an underlying pain or experience from the past. Inpatient programs can help by discussing these issues and providing real therapy. Through an inpatient program, an individual can get their life back and return to a healthy mode of living.

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5 thoughts on “What You Should Do if You Suspect a Co-Worker is High

  1. I work in the restaurant business and we have to deal with drugs and co-workers all the time. Thank you for this article and all that you do Per. This is very beneficial of what too watch for.

  2. This article was very informative about how to handle the situation in a way that benefits everyone involved rather than making a rash decision that causes more problems for the individual.

  3. I have very mixed feeling about this particular topic. However, I would have to say that intervention is the better option than firing. Multiple infractions due to a employee’s rejection to help is a different story, but honestly I think there are many functional alcoholics and conventional drug uses all over the work place. this article touched on some things that could help an employer tackle an issue like this one head on.

  4. In a world where everyone expects everyone to be perfect. this article really put me in tears. I appreciate the compassion you brought to my attention, it really leveled out all the fears I have once attaining employment.

  5. This is a very informative article if you have never had a problem with addiction. It was definitely correct to point out that an addict is very sensitive as to who speaks about their problem and who they speak to. Good article.

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