Coworkers and supervisors play an important role in keeping the workplace free of substance abuse and addiction. Whether an employee is bringing their problem behavior to work or not, coworkers spend many hours in a week with us and have a valuable perspective on how we operate. Sometimes, a person can spot their coworker's problem behavior even before the coworker's family does simply because they are more removed and objective about the person and are able to see through their lies and denial. An important but seldom discussed role of every employee is to observe and assess the mental and physical health of their coworkers, including watching for signs of addiction and substance abuse.
When a person's addiction or substance abuse problems are extreme, it is not hard for their coworkers to observe their problem. In many instances, the problem will be serious enough that the individual will participate in their problem behavior within the workplace. This may include drinking, doing drugs, looking at porn, gambling online, gorging on food or compulsively flirting in the workplace. These behaviors would indicate the most extreme forms of addiction or substance abuse. Or, the person may show signs of engaging in these activities before work or planning to engage in them after work. If someone arrives at work smelling like alcohol or their appearance clearly indicates that they have recently been under the influence of a substance, this can be a very strong indication of a problem. Or, if they are antsy at work and express how eager they are to get to the bar or smoke a joint or do a line of cocaine, it is very likely that they are struggling.
An addiction or substance abuse problem that is less severe or that is just beginning can be harder to spot. People tend to be much more functional when their problem is not severe and are able to keep it concealed much better. Plus, when someone's addiction or substance abuse is mild or moderate rather than severe, they are not living their life around it as intensely as a severe addict or substance abuser. Signs may be more subtle, like unexplained absences from work, subtle comments about how time is spent or subtle signs of unhealthiness in their appearance or behavior.