Why You Should Care About Substance Abuse at Work (Part 2)

Signs of Substance Abuse for Specific Drugs

In Part 1, Why You Should Care About Substance Abuse at Work, we learned that someone else’s “personal problem” presents a problem for everyone they encounter on a day-to-day basis. Substance abuse impacts the bottom line and the personal safety of all personnel within an organization. This insidious problem can no longer be ignored.

As opioid abuse continues to spiral out of control in Northeast Ohio, it is important for coworkers and/or managers to be observant. There are signs to watch out for to determine if a coworker is abusing a controlled substance. In Part 2 we will explore the telltale signs of abuse for specific types of controlled substances.

Alcohol Abuse

Two of three adults in the U.S. consume alcohol. 10% of drinkers consume half of the nation’s alcohol (beer, wine, liquor).

What to watch out for to detect alcohol abuse (blood alcohol of .05 to .06) in the workplace:

  • Fine motor coordination lost
  • Instinct dominates over reason
  • Mood significantly relaxed, less tense
  • Loss of perception, senses dulled

Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana is the easiest substance to detect with drug testing. It stays in the system the longest, in some cases for several weeks. Marijuana is the most common used drug in the U.S.

What to watch out for to detect marijuana abuse in the workplace:


Cocaine is a highly addictive drug. It is the most powerful central nervous system stimulant found in nature.

What to watch out for to detect cocaine abuse in the workplace:

  • Brief feelings of uncharacteristic euphoria and confidence
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe mood swings and irritability
  • Sleeplessness and chronic fatigue


Heroin is derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance that can be extracted from the seedpods of some varieties of poppy plants. It can be injected, sniffed, snorted or smoked.

What to watch out for to detect heroin use in the workplace:

  • Depression
  • Physical destruction of the body (i.e. needle marks, sallow skin tone, decline of personal hygiene/ appearance)
  • Severe itching
  • Clouded thinking


Methamphetamines are a highly addictive stimulant. Because the “high” from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern.

What to watch out for to detect methamphetamine use in the workplace:

  • Severe dental problems
  • Mood swings
  • Violent behavior
  • Extreme weight loss

Prescription Drugs

More employees test positive for prescription drugs than cocaine and methamphetamines combined! Prescription opioid abuse mimics the effects of heroin; the user has an intense feeling of euphoria and pleasure.

What to watch out for to detect prescription drug use in the workplace:

  • Slurred speech
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Abnormal drowsiness

These are visual indicators that a coworker may be abusing a controlled substance. However, there are effective ways to deal with this ever-present problem (i.e. drug testing). Check back in a couple of weeks for Part 3 to find out the proper next steps to take when confronting someone abusing substances in the workplace.

Timothy Dimoff Knows the Effects of Substance Abuse

As a former narcotics law enforcement officer, Tim Dimoff applies his firsthand experience with the drug trade to business operations best practices. Contact Tim to schedule the Tim’s Talk What to do About Substance Abuse in the Workplace to protect your employees and the organization as a whole from this insidious problem plaguing corporate America.

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