Signs of Drug Use in the Workplace


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How can you determine whether someone is using drugs? If your organization does not have the proper DOT reasonable suspicion training conducted, it may be difficult to recognize. As you are aware, it is a crucial skill for supervisors to have when dealing with staff members whose professions include some degree of safety risk.

The use of drugs and alcohol at work is something that might make you worry the most as a supervisor. If so, this article is ideal for you since it will give supervisors updated, accurate information about the warning signs of drug and alcohol usage, enabling them to spot these signs quickly and take appropriate legal action.

What are the signs of drug use?

While certain symptoms apply to a wide range of drugs, others are specific to one or maybe just two types of drugs. As a result, rather than being used as the only proof of substance abuse, a number of these symptoms should be employed in conjunction with other observations as well as a thorough workplace drug testing program.

This is because some of these symptoms could also be signs of other concerns, such as anything from the cold or flu to mental health problems. It is also very crucial to keep in mind that these indicators of drug usage could potentially be behavioral or psychological rather than just physical.

1.  Drug-related physical symptoms

A worker who uses drugs might experience a general lack of enthusiasm in dressing or grooming. They might have a foul or unclean appearance and stained clothes. Alcohol and tobacco, as well as chemical odors, may be present in drug and alcohol users. Check the person’s face for additional indications.

Their pupils may be dilated or constricted, and they may have watery, bloodshot, and perhaps even glassy eyes. They can have pale, flushed, or excessive sweating skin. Slobbering, chewing gum, as well as candy are examples of symptoms around the mouth.

Other than that, here are some additional signs that can help you determine physically related symptoms for drug use in your employees.

•       Appearance changes

•       Personal hygiene deteriorating

•       Decreased response times

•       Vocal slurring

•       A lower level of awareness

•       Unexpected impairment

•       Mobility limitations

•       Eyesight or hearing distortions

2.  Behavioral indicators of drug use

•       Poor performance at work

•       Timekeeping errors

•       Higher rates of absence due to temporary illness

•       Relationships with management, colleagues, or clients are getting worse

•       Theft and dishonesty

•       Abnormal or unpredictable behavior

•       Decreased ability to complete daily chores with success

•       Perception and coordination are decreased

•       Large energy or concentration swings

•       Absence of rationality

3.  Psychological indicators of drug use

•       Memory loss

•       Restricted judgment

•       Unusual irritation or anger

•       Possibility of getting confused

•       Unexpected shifts in mood

4.  Impaired motor function

A drug user’s motor abilities will be impaired. Keep an eye out for workers who seem unstable on their feet. They can be swaying, stumbling, losing their balance, as well as grasping for support.

The person’s movements might be slower, and they might seem tired or lost. On the other hand, they could even display hyperactivity or nervousness.

A combination of indicators

Instead of one indicator alone, an employee who uses drugs is more likely to exhibit a variety of them. Some are frequently related to specific drug types. Drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, as well as amphetamine, for instance, are stimulants that can cause increased excitement, attentiveness, as well as restlessness.

On the other hand, poorer coordination and slower reaction times are more likely signs of marijuana usage. In general, managers should be aware of any significant changes in an employee’s behavior, output, physical appearance, as well as personality and look for the actual reason, which may or may not be a drug-related issue. The only reliable method of proving drug abuse is drug testing.

What actions should employers take if they suspect drug use at work?

Companies should have a policy for workplace drug as well as alcohol testing that must be efficiently established. Employers must also document their course of action if they have a reasonable suspicion that an employee is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Employers have options when a claimed impairment occurs, such as:

1.     Keep detailed records of the grievances and issues that coworkers have raised.

2.     Speak with the worker face-to-face and look out for any potential symptoms of intoxication. Secondly, request that a different manager or an employee from human resources (HR) make an on-site observation.

3.     If the employee is either endangering himself or others, remove them from any safety-sensitive position.

4.     Both observers should note any unusual behaviors, speech, appearances, odors, emotions, activities, as well as inactions that they notice.

5.     When in doubt, consult a third party to determine whether additional action is required. Evaluate whether observations and supporting documentation are accurate with reasonable suspicion.

6.     To discuss the results, meet with the employee, management, including HR. Let the employee understand that the company will take them for a substance and alcohol test to clear out any potential policy violations.

7.     Set up a means of transportation to the testing site, such as a taxi or a member of the management team.

8.     Wait for the test results before responding to an employee’s refusal, a positive or negative test result, or both, by the company’s drug and alcohol policy.

What can business owners do to help employees become more informed? – Lower the chance of drug-related accidents and injuries

Given how delicate the subject of drug usage is, employers may be confused about how to proceed. Testing can be used to confirm drug usage when there is a reasonable suspicion of it, but the employer must be aware of when it is appropriate to do so and what will happen if it is done improperly.

In addition, companies must take action to ensure the safety and health of their staff members. In the long run, a drug-free workplace serves to protect workers by lowering the possibility of drug-related injuries and accidents.

Employers need to know how to spot drug abuse symptoms and when to request drug testing based on reasonable suspicion. A practical way to inform managers and staff about the detrimental impacts of drugs and alcohol on workplace safety is through dot reasonable suspicion training.


Recognizing these signs can help you take action against drug abuse in the workplace. Illegal drug use can lead to several physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms in an individual. To be clear, simply recognizing these symptoms will not be enough.

You can spot and address these problems early on, making your workplace safer and helping influenced individuals in receiving the support they need. This can only be possible with a thorough workplace drug testing policy and a proper plan in place.


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