Contact Us
6 min read

How to Deal with Substance Abuse in the Workplace Using Compassion

Featured Image

As an employer, you care about your employees — not only the work they produce but their safety, health, and overall well-being. That’s why it’s vital to approach substance abuse in the workplace through a compassionate lens. 

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), more than 70% of those abusing illicit drugs in the United States are employed, as are most alcohol binge drinkers.

So what do these staggering statistics have to do with your company? It’s very likely that you have employees working through substance abuse issues, and without proper help, your business — and its most vital assets, the people — can suffer significantly.

Fortunately, you do not have to stand by and let these personal issues explode. If you believe that an employee's substance abuse is impacting the workplace, there are things you can do to help. This blog post will specifically discuss how to recognize warning signs of substance abuse, how to compassionately approach employees about their substance abuse, and what corresponding actions you need to consider.



Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a severe problem for any workplace. That is why noticing substance abuse is the first step in preventing this devastating issue from spiraling out of control.

Some of the more common signs of substance abuse tend to include the following:

  • Unpredictable mood swings.

  • Progressive deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene, such as weight loss or gain, bloodshot eyes, frequent blood noses, or extreme lethargy.

  • Withdrawal from co-workers. 

  • Withdrawal symptoms such as excessive sweating or signs of morning-after hangovers.

  • Significant financial problems. 

  • Frequent tardiness and extended sick days.

  • Diminished productivity.

  • Frequent involvement with workplace accidents. 


White Board (4)



Many substance abusers are reluctant to discuss their substance abuse issues or reach out to get help. They may often reject your claims that they have any problems because they fear that they will get fired. 

Yet, if you suspect that an employee has a substance abuse problem, you must approach them. However, the key to ensuring this approach is done right is to do it in a way that shows the employee they are cared for and respected:

  • Address Performance Concerns: If you inform an employee that you have noticed certain behaviors from them and ask them for an explanation, it can open the door for more candid discussions about what is going on. This approach will be even more beneficial when you indicate that you are not blaming them. Rather, you want to help them with their issues so that they can get back on track. 

  • Discuss Reasonable Accommodations: If workers indicate that their issues are due to family stress, a health condition, or some other coping problem, you can discuss reasonable accommodations with them or other options such as time-off work or optional Employee Assistance Program (EAP) solutions. Not only can this help you get to the root of the problem, but it can also show your employee that the company is willing to provide them the assistance they need.

  • Go Over Possible Consequences: If an employee denies any issues, you need to proceed with standard company actions to address their problems and let them know what the expectations are going forward and possible consequences of their behavior. 

When having these discussions with your employee, make sure they are always done individually. This can ensure the employee feels safe and more comfortable being honest with you about their problems. 

White Board (5)



Not only is it incredibly important to protect your employees for their personal well-being, but it is also beneficial for the overall productivity and success of your business. 

That is why one of the best ways to support your employees is to make sure that your EAP substance abuse solutions are well-communicated to them so they understand their resources. 

When you work with an EAP partner who provides robust and inclusive professional services regarding multiple situations, including substance abuse, mental wellness, and violence, it can ensure that you are promoting positive relationships within the workplace and delivering the professional counseling services your employees need. Plus, it can also help:

Identify issues that are concerning and discuss these problems before they escalate into something more:

  • Come up with different plans to address these issues

  • Develop a specific course of action to approach these various problems and come up with constructive solutions

  • Identify issues that are concerning and discuss these problems before they escalate into something more

Even though finding an EAP partner that can provide you with this type of help may seem challenging, it does not have to be. At Employee Recovery, we make sure to provide services to individuals and even groups of employees who have issues in their lives that can impact their work performance, safety, workplace morale, and psychological health. 



When an employee struggles with a substance abuse disorder, it is crucial to have compassion and empathy for these individuals. Yet, it is also vital that you understand that this behavior can cause many company issues. Employees that have substance abuse problems not only have high turnover rates and increased healthcare expenses, but they also file more frequent workers' compensation claims and lower overall workplace productivity. 

However, there is good news in all of this. These substance abuse issues are often quite treatable, primarily when the problem is addressed as a chronic disease and the employee is able to get the support they need.

If you are looking for ways to incorporate EAP programs into your business, contact Employee Recovery today and learn more about how our specific programs can provide you the help your organization needs.


Employee Recovery CTA