Most Common Effects of Substance Abuse on Job Performance at the Workplace
Often employers make the decision not to adopt drug testing policies because they are confident in their ability to spot substance abuse problems in their employees. Unfortunately, these problems rarely become evident until further into the downward spiral of addiction. Beginning users may not always show the typical signs of a “user” but the substances in his or her system can still impair their ability to function efficiently as an employee. Below is an overview of the symptoms, signs, and effects associated with substance abuse as they relate to the workplace.
Entry Level Abuse
At this point, the employee has moved on from recreational use of drugs and alcohol. Now these chemicals are required to help the employee cope with the stress of their lives. While you may not know this has happened, you can start to see the tell-tale signs of abuse affecting performance:
• Increased lateness and absenteeism
• Increased errors, particularly those associated with a lack of attention or bad judgment
• Increased number of missed deadlines
Overall, a marked decline in efficiency occurs. However, these changes could be explained by other problems, such a divorce, illness in the family, or other personal situations.
Phase 2 Level Abuse
Soon enough the employee will develop the habit of drinking secretively to hide an increase in intake. At this point, you’ll see another marked slide in overall performance and one that is more difficult to explain away.
• Lack of dependability
• An increase in hospitalization, injuries, and vague afflictions which lead to more days missed from work
• Lack of concentration
• Reduced quality of work recognizable by everyone other than the employee
Co-workers may also begin to feel the effects at this point, too. Abusers at this level sometimes ask to borrow money or become more easily irritable.
Phase 3 Level Abuse
By now, employers should begin to take notice of the problem. However, they may not make the connection between poor work performance and substance abuse. As the problem worsens, the employee will begin to show more serious signs.
• Repeated disappearance after lunch
• Refusal to discuss possibility of substance abuse problems
• Marked decrease in impulse control
• May have financial and legal problems
• Increased absenteeism – sometimes lasting for three to five consecutive days
• Refusal to communicate with anyone
When the user reaches this point, he has stopped even pretending to use substances for other purposes. Now he or she uses primarily alone and replaces meals with these chemicals.
Highest Level Abuse
A point comes in the existence of the user when he or she may reach bottom. That would usually come at this level of substance abuse. Because now, the user views work as an inconvenience that gets in the ways of being able to use, he or she may accept drug testing as an easy way to get out of work or may even simply disappear without returning to the office for a long period of time.
Overall, by this point, other parts of the user’s life have begun to fall apart, including marriages and family relationships. Money is scarce. Absences are many and usually are no explanation is even attempted in most cases. By this point, the worker has become completely incompetent if he or she is showing up at all.