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July 6, 2023

Substance Abuse at Work: A Simple Guide for Bosses

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Substance Abuse at Work: A Simple Guide for Bosses


Picture this: You’re a coach, and one of your star players seems off their game. They’re not playing like they used to, and you’re concerned. As a coach, it’s your responsibility to help them get back on track, right? Similarly, as an employer, if you notice an employee might be struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to understand how to help. Let’s dive into this topic and understand what employers need to know about substance abuse in the workplace.

What is Substance Abuse?

First, let’s understand what substance abuse is. It’s when a person uses drugs or alcohol in a way that harms their health or life. It’s like a trap that’s hard to escape from, and it can affect their work, too.

Signs of Substance Abuse at Work

So, what are some signs that a worker might be struggling with substance abuse? Here are a few:

Changes in Work Performance: They might make more mistakes than usual, miss deadlines, or have trouble focusing on their tasks.

Changes in Behavior: They might be late often, miss work, seem tired all the time, or act differently, like being more quiet or angry than usual.

Physical Signs: They might look different, like losing weight, having bloodshot eyes, or not taking care of their appearance.

What Bosses Can Do

If you think a worker is struggling with substance abuse, here’s what you can do:

Talk About It: Talk to the employee privately and express your concerns. Remember to be kind and understanding. It’s not about blaming but about offering help.

Encourage Them to Seek Help: If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you can guide them towards these resources. EAPs often provide services like counseling or treatment referrals.

Create a Supportive Environment: Make sure all your workers know it’s okay to ask for help if they struggle with substance abuse. A supportive environment can make it easier for them to seek help.


What Bosses Shouldn’t Do

Here are some things bosses shouldn’t do:

Ignore the Problem: Ignoring it won’t make it disappear. It’s better to address the issue early before it gets worse.

Punish Without Offering Help: Substance abuse is a health issue. While employees should be held accountable for their work performance, offering help and support is essential.

Try to Diagnose or Treat the Employee: You’re their boss, not their doctor. Always refer them to professional help.


Being a boss is like being a captain. If a crew member is struggling, it’s your job to help guide them to the resources they need. Understanding substance abuse and how to address it can help create a healthier, more supportive workplace. Remember, every worker deserves the chance to overcome their struggles and succeed.

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