Signs of Addiction in the Workplace


It can be hard to spot signs of addiction in the workplace because people with alcohol or drugs problems are often very good at concealing it. There is usually such a stigma surrounding addiction that they may be afraid to come forward in case it damages their career. They are also in denial, making excuses for their actions, and can become quite skilled at hiding the problem as it intensifies. These people are known as ‘functioning addicts’ and can successfully maintain a normal life while concealing their addiction.

If you are concerned that your colleague has an alcohol or drug problem, there are signs you can look for:

  • Decreased level of work performance;
  • Absenteeism from work, arriving late at work or arriving late to meetings;
  • Alcohol smell on the breath, and attempts to disguise this with mints and perfume;
  • Frequent breaks during the day, extended trips to the bathroom or leaving the office premesis;
  • Covering-up: colleagues are often unknowingly guilty of covering up for a co-worker after late night-out, although they may be aware of someone’s drinking or drug-taking;
  • Signs of drug use or drug withdrawal, e.g. erratic behaviour, uncharacteristic energy or euphoria, dilated pupils, restlessness, irritability and risk taking.

Office cultures that promote addiction

Abuse of alcohol and drugs is more likely in a work environment with a toxic culture. Below are some examples of a negative office culture. 

  • A culture of peer pressure, where a blind eye is turned to drinking and drug taking or it is even actively encouraged.
  • Negative office environment where staff are belittled, intimidated or competing fiercely with one another; a culture which is characterised by high stress levels and unethical behaviour;
  • Staff dissatisfaction and high staff turnover;
  • Damaged reputation of the company as a good organisation to work for.

This is not to say that all addictions develop in a negative workplace environment. It might be that the alcohol or drug misuse was triggered due to other reasons, external to the workplace. It takes a good manager and personnel team to spot the signs of addiction and be prepared to support their employee through their recovery.

Addiction Treatment for Professionals

At Smarmore Castle Private Clinic we provide an integrated residential treatment plan for addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling and other behavioural addictions. Our specialists advise employers and company doctors on how to:

  • Handle addiction in the workplace,
  • Set up a company alcohol and drug misuse policy,
  • Prepare an internal risk assessment,
  • Provide regular training for HR managers and supervisors.

Contact us for specialised support with alcohol and drug problems in the workplace. 


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