How to spot the signs of addiction

April 08, 2019
As an employer, it is important to recognize the signs that an employee may be in trouble so you can support and guide them in getting the help they need.

Alcohol Awareness Month, observed every April since 1987, seeks to raise awareness about the causes and effects of alcoholism and how to help families and communities deal with drinking problems. As the single most used and abused drug in America, alcohol contributes to lost productivity, injuries at home and work, traffic accidents, and personal and family struggles. In the workplace alone, studies estimate alcohol abuse costs U.S. employers $33 billion to $68 billion per year.

As with any disease, seeking treatment for alcoholism or substance use disorder sooner rather than later can help with recovery. As an employer, it is important to recognize the signs that an employee may be in trouble, so you can support and guide them in getting the help they need.

While there is no exact formula to determine if a person is abusing alcohol or other substances, here are some common symptoms:

In the workplace

  • Frequent tardiness
  • Excessive use of sick time
  • Frequent unplanned absences due to emergencies
  • Decline in quality of work, productivity
  • Many excuses for sloppy work, missed deadlines, etc.

In dealing with others

  • Easily becomes irritable or argumentative
  • Exhibits extreme mood swings
  • Becomes isolated and distant from family, friends, and coworkers
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid for no reason

In appearance

  • Deterioration in personal grooming
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

How employers can help

If you are an employer who offers the Medical Plan and suspect an employee has a problem, you have access to no-cost management consultation services through the Employee Assistance Program. Administered by Cigna, services include information, support, and guidance to help you deal with sensitive management issues; for example, what to do if you suspect an employee’s substance use is affecting job performance.

What members can do

For employees who have medical coverage through the Board of Pensions, coverage includes benefits for behavioral health and substance use disorder. The Employee Assistance Program provides unlimited phone access to licensed clinicians who can help with issues related to substance use, as well as other work/life issues.*

*The EAP is available to employees and their spouses with medical coverage through the Board of Pensions; these benefits are not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.