Boss Lady

Drug and alcohol policy improvements: substance abuse in the workplace


Substance abuse in the workplace can be a challenge as a boss, manager,  or co-worker. Whether a few select individuals are struggling at the moment or you’ve begun to recognize a broader company culture that directly or indirectly encourages substance misuse or reliance, the issue can span into both personal and professional areas of life. Although this makes it tricky to navigate, it’s still crucial to address.

From your workplace drug and alcohol policies to your overall company culture, you can make steady improvements if you notice people are struggling with substance abuse. Being proactive in addressing these problems will not only improve the lives of those personally affected, but it will also increase the health, positivity and productivity of your entire department or workplace. Really, addressing drug and alcohol policies can only uplift your working environment.

Substance Abuse in the Workplace: Common Signs of Addiction 

While not everybody shows addiction in the same way — especially as people can struggle with a reliance on various substances — a few warning signs could make it a bit more obvious. Habits like showing up hungover, sleeping on the job, theft and frequently missing work can often point to addiction in the workplace, but the signs can often be a bit more subtle, too. Low morale, loss of productivity or even high employee turnover can sometimes result from workplace addiction issues.

Taking note of these signs in conjunction with knowing your employees and your company’s culture can sometimes lead to greater knowledge.

Company Culture

Understanding your company’s culture can sometimes give you insight into all kinds of information about your employees’ habits. While your company obviously does not encourage substance use, alcohol is apparent in and around many workplaces. U.S. workers commonly report that 7.1% drink during the workday or at after-hour work events, while 9.2% have gone to work with hangovers.

While no single factor creates a company culture that encourages addiction, higher levels of stress, feelings of isolation, availability of substances, and relaxed or nonexistent policies can often lead to workplaces where substance use is the standard. Stress-induced substance use — and other workplace challenges — can be mitigated by striving to achieve and maintain an open, encouraging company culture that aims to support its employees through transparency, communication and mental health resources.

Don’t Ignore the Problem

While substance use often feels like a profoundly personal issue, it shouldn’t go ignored in the workplace, especially when it’s impacting the work you do. If you don’t already have well-rounded policies in place, that’s a great first step. Developing guidelines and making sure your employees are informed and have a sense of responsibility around them is a great way to aim for a successful drug-free workplace.

You can also bring in human resources to interact with specific employees or enact the guidelines in conjunction with your leadership. Their job as a department is to ensure the health, safety and balance of the workplace for everyone in it, and that includes helping promote a substance-free workplace.

How to Prevent Substance Abuse in the Workplace

While all work environments have a unique culture and challenges, any workplace can become a safe, healthy and drug-free environment. While the changes you make could have an individual or widespread impact, increasing worker health, safety and satisfaction should always be the goal. That way, you can all be productive while leading balanced lives.

About Ginger Abbott'

Ginger Abbot is an education writer with a special interest in career development and the workplace. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of, where you can read more of her writing.