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Drug abuse is a sensitive topic that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough in the workplace. If you look at the averages alone, most large organizations have at least one or two people dealing with drug abuse at any given moment. Do you know how to identify these abusers and help them seek recovery?

Whether used with a prescription from a doctor or obtained illegally, drug abuse is a major problem in the United States. According to Rush University Medical Center, there are an estimated 6 million Americans using prescription drugs illegitimately each month. The top three abused drug categories are opioids, sedatives, and stimulants.

As previously mentioned, the numbers alone suggest that most businesses have someone on the payroll who is struggling with drug abuse. Here are some ways you can spot it:

1. Excessive Absenteeism

According to data gathered by Promises Treatment Center, drug abusers miss 10 workdays for every one that is missed by other employees. If you have someone who misses an abnormally large number of days every month, this should raise your eyebrows. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re abusing drugs, but it’s a sign that something could be wrong.

2. Lack of Productivity

One of the major costs of drug abuse comes in the form of a lack of workplace productivity. According to one study, drug abuse costs the country hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Roughly 60 percent of this cost comes in the form of lost workplace productivity.

If you have an employee who used to be productive but now seems to meander through the workday with little output, there’s obviously something going on. If other symptoms are also present, drug abuse could be the culprit.

3. Exceptionally High Accrual of Health Care Costs

The Promises Treatment Center data also reveals that those abusing drugs accrue employer-covered health care costs that are a three-times higher than the costs incurred by the average employee.

You obviously can’t dig into an employee’s health records and problems without their permission, but do be aware that exceptionally high health care costs indicate something isn’t right. You can usually put two and two together to determine if these costs are part of an ongoing health issue, or if they’re being hidden in secrecy.

4. Risky Behavior

Those abusing drugs aren’t always in a good state of mind. If they’re on the drug, their cognitive functioning is usually impacted in some form or fashion. If they’re in between drug usage, then they might be experiencing withdrawal symptoms that lead to irritation and/or anxiety.

Employees who are using drugs will often exhibit signs of risky behavior. Sometimes this risky behavior will be innocent, while other times it can put the employee and your organization in harm’s way.

5. Co-Worker Concerns

Finally, listen to your other employees. Co-workers know each other better than you know them. If they come to you and say something isn’t right, chances are pretty good that there’s an issue. Take everything people say with a grain of salt, but don’t discount a report simply because it requires you to get involved. It may be worth sitting down and having conversations with different individuals so that you can get to the bottom of the problem.

Drug abuse isn’t something you approach casually if you don’t know what you’re doing. Calling an employee out may be the worst thing you can do for their situation. If you don’t have previous experience dealing with abuse and addiction, speak with someone who does and help the individual get the assistance they need.

About the author: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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