How to Handle Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Workplace

Dealing with substance and abuse is difficult in any situation. It is especially difficult if your employees or colleagues are addicts. Addiction gets in the way of work performance.

Firing employees who are addicts is not always a good solution. Sometimes it might be necessary. But try and handle the situation first.

Here are ways you can do that.

Address Problems

  • It could be that the addict doesn’t know they have a problem.
  • Substance abuse doesn’t always mean addiction.
  • They might be going through a tough time.
  • Maybe the problem hasn’t tipped over to the point of addiction yet.
  • It’s better to point out this problem before it becomes worse.
  • This conversation isn’t an easy one to have.
  • Approach it from a professional point of view. Point out what the issues at work are. If anything isn’t professional, say it needs to stop.
  • Come up with alternative ways they could behave.
  • Say that the workplace is an alcohol-free zone. Put drug tests in place.
  • Give them warnings. If the problem continues, you might have to take further action. When you bring up the issue, give suggestions.
  • Have a plan in place in case they don’t respond well.

Encourage Treatment

  • When you see someone has a problem, don’t admonish them.
  • Suggest that they seek professional help.
  • Addicts will need to go to therapy. They will probably need rehab.
  • Look up a few rehab centers in your area. Here is one located in Los Angeles.
  • Rehab will mean time spent away from work.
  • Reassure them that their job will be waiting for them.
  • They might have to take all of their vacation time, but it will be worth it.
  • Once they return, they will be thankful that you were understanding.
  • They will be more motivated than ever to work.
  • It’s better to have an employee who’s grateful for your intervention.
  • It also sets a better tone for their colleagues.
  • Be discreet when talking with other employees. The privacy should always be valued. Ask the person you’re concerned about how they want to handle the situation.
  • It’s important to make them feel empowered.
  • If they are worried about their job, the situation will only worsen.
  • Reassure them that you want them to succeed.

Listen to People

  • If someone opens up to you, listen.
  • It might seem unprofessional, but it could be good for the workplace.
  • When things get too personal, don’t be afraid to tell someone.
  • They don’t need to tell you their whole life story.
  • Regularly check up on them once they’ve returned from rehab.
  • Ask how other aspects of their life are, too.
  • Addicts shouldn’t be defined by their problems. They need to be reminded of the good things.
  • If they don’t have much of social life, encourage one.
  • Offer to do a sober activity with them.
  • See about organizing a work outing that doesn’t involve drinks.
  • The office will enjoy it, too.

Create a Healthy Environment

  • Set a good example and don’t drink too much at parties.
  • If you need to, establish the workplace as an alcohol-free zone.
  • You don’t need to explain why to other employees.
  • If they have a problem with it, say that it’s healthier. Remind them that you can have fun without alcohol.
  • Here are some ways to encourage a good workplace.
  • Encourage people to have a good balance between work and personal life.
  • If you notice someone is working too hard, recommend they take a day off.
  • They will thank you for it.
  • Happy employees are better employees.

Share Your Problems

  • If you have a substance abuse problem, tell people.
  • You don’t need to go into details.
  • There’s no need to share more than you’re comfortable with.
  • If you’re dealing with other problems, let people know.
  • They don’t have to know everything.
  • People look up to a leader who can admit their faults.
  • It’s not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of strength.
  • If someone is going through a hard time, tell them how you dealt with things in the past.
  • You don’t need to be an addict to sympathize with one.


Substance abuse and addiction don’t have to last forever. They are issues that can be worked through.

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