Signs and symptoms that an employee has a drug problem

  • any impact on a person’s judgment, alertness, perception, hand-eye coordination or emotional state that also affects safe work or safety-sensitive decisions
  • aftereffects of substance use (hangover, withdrawal) affecting job performance
  • illness or injury
  • absenteeism or reduced productivity
  • preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work, interfering with attention and concentration
  • illegal activities at work, including selling illegal drugs to other employees,
  • psychological or stress-related effects of substance use by a family member, friend, or co-worker that affects someone else’s job performance.

The CCOHS says there is a spectrum of use that can range from casual to addictive or addictive. He says employers need to consider whether a worker’s substance use poses a risk to their safety or the safety of others. This all depends on what substances are being used or abused. Here is a list of seven common substances and the observable effects they have on individuals.


This includes beer, wine and spirits. While alcohol is legal across Canada, different workplaces have different rules regarding acceptable use. This can sometimes include limits on what a worker can drink while on duty, but many workplaces also have zero tolerance policies. Signs and symptoms of excessive alcohol use include impaired judgment, slowed reflexes, impaired motor function, drowsiness and coma. In extreme cases, alcohol poisoning can be fatal.

sleeping pills

Benzodiazepines are a group of drugs commonly used to treat sleep disorders, anxiety, and seizures. May cause confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, memory loss, slurred speech, muscle weakness, imbalance. Excessive use can also lead to delusions, hallucinations, sudden anxiety, restlessness, agitation, and sometimes feelings of euphoria. These should be especially avoided if a worker is operating heavy machinery or driving.


With the recreational use of legal marijuana across Canada, there are now marijuana stores popping up all over the place and many different types of ingestion methods. You can drink, eat or smoke, and some workers may think that sharing in the workplace is acceptable. Health and safety professionals should be aware of their company’s policies regarding recreational marijuana use and remind workers of existing policies. Marijuana products can create a distorted sense of time, impair memory and coordination, and cause drowsiness.


Opiates are among the most dangerous substances abused and have led to a national crisis often referred to as the opiate epidemic. Opioids include over-the-counter drugs like morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and some mild sedatives. But it also includes illegal drugs like heroin. And while morphine, codeine and fentanyl are legal, there is an illegal street trade in these drugs. Overdoses can be fatal and these types of drugs can cause inattention, slow reflexes, imbalance, drowsiness, nausea and depression. Opioids are extremely addictive and should be treated with extreme caution if found in the workplace.

Signs and symptoms that an employee has a drug problem

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