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You are here: Home > Distressed Faculty & Staff > Specific Problems > The Substance Abusing Employee

The Substance Abusing Employee

Given the stresses of balancing work and personal responsibilities and our culture's messages linking alcohol use with pleasure, relaxation, athletic prowess and sophistication, employees are especially susceptible to drug abuse. A variety of substances are available that provide escape from pressing demands.  However, drugs soon create their own set of problems in the form of addiction, accident proneness, and declining work performance.  The most abused substance -- so commonplace we often forget that it is a drug -- is alcohol.  Alcohol and other drug-related accidents remain the cause of many preventable deaths.



  • Be on the alert for signs of drug abuse: 1) preoccupation with drugs and reduced ability to participate in work-related activities, and 2) deteriorating performance, and/or periods of memory loss (blackouts).
  • Share your honest concern for the person and discuss your concern behaviorally.  You may want to say:  "Your performance is dropping…” and specify how.  "You do not participate as much"; "You arrive late to work and have been absent three out of five days this week".
  • Encourage the employee to seek help or referral information at the Employee Assistance Program.
  • Get help from University Police in instances of out-of-control and/or intoxicated behavior.



  • Ignore the problem.
  • Chastise or lecture.
  • Enable the behavior by giving undeserved "breaks."
  • Accuse the employee of drug/alcohol problem.


by sebenl99 — last modified Oct 24, 2012 10:36 AM