The signs of drug use in the workplace

2 Jul 2021 | Drugs

The signs of drug use can be difficult to spot, even more so if employers are unsure what to look for.

A comprehensive drug and alcohol testing policy and strategy can help improve the safety of employees and reduce substance-related issues in the workplace. One of the causes for drug testing is Reasonable suspicion testing. This test is performed when supervisors have evidence or reasonable cause to suspect an employee of drug use. Evidence is based upon direct observation, either by a supervisor or another employee. Physical evidence of illicit substances, patterns of erratic or abnormal behaviour. Hence, it is important to know what to look out for.

What are the signs of drug use?

While certain signs can be seen across a variety of different substances, there are also some relevant to just one or two drug types. Similarly, some of these signs may also indicate other concerns. For example, common cold or mental health issues. That is why these tips should be used in conjunction with other observations plus a comprehensive workplace drug testing programme, rather than as standalone evidence of substance misuse.

It is important to remember that these signs of drug use may not be purely physical, but also behavioural and psychological.

Physical signs of drug use

• Changes in physical appearance
• Worsening personal hygiene
• Impaired reaction times
• Slurred speech
• Impaired awareness
• Sudden incapacity
• Restricted mobility
• Distorted hearing or vision

Behavioural signs of drug uses

• Poor job performance
• Bad time-keeping
• Greater levels of absence through short-term sickness
• Worsening relationships with management, colleagues or customers
• Dishonesty and theft
• Atypical or erratic behaviour
• Lowered ability to successfully carry out everyday tasks
• Reduced levels of perception and coordination
• Big fluctuations in energy or concentration
• Lack of reasoning

Psychological signs of drug use

• Lack of memory
• Limited judgement
• Unusual irritability or aggression
• Tendency to become confused
• Sudden mood changes

Can diluted pupils be a sign of drug use?

In short, yes, dilated pupils can be a sign of drug use. However, different substances will have different effects on the look of a user’s eyes.

The use of illegal drugs can result in a number of physical, behavioural and psychological signs in an individual – and recognising these signs can help you to crack down on drug misuse in the workplace. However, it is important to note that simply spotting these signs is not enough. With a comprehensive workplace drug testing policy and strategy in place, you can identify and resolve these issues early on, making your workplace a safer place, and helping affected individuals to get the support that they need.