Professionals with drug and alcohol problems

Drug & alcohol problems at work

Helping an employee with alcohol or drug problems

Support for employees with alcohol & drug problems

Approaching someone about an alcohol or drug problem in the workplace can be difficult for any manager or colleague. However the sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner help can be found for them. The following steps are a guide to help the employer approach the employee about their alcohol/drug problem:

Early recognition

Know how to recognise the signs and symptoms of addiction and how to spot the signs in the workplace

Explain that addiction is a disease

Addiction is not a moral weakness or a personality disorder, it is a disease, but a disease that can be treated successfully to the point where long term recovery is achieved. There is a stigma attached to the term 'addiction' and this makes it harder for those with an addiction to face up to it. If necessary use the term 'problems' instead of 'addiction' until there is an official diagnosis by a doctor.

Early intervention 

Help and intervention at an early stage can save an employee's career, family and health. By the time alcoholism and drug addiction is visible in the office, it will already be causing problems at home.


Adopt a flexible, caring approach. Begin by expressing concern and expect denial and defensiveness from your colleague.

Present the facts 

Don't say "I think you drink too much", instead say "I smelled alcohol on your breath before the client meeting', or "I noticed you have been arriving at work late recently and your appearance seems dishevelled."

Make the employee aware of the effects of their alcohol/drug use

Employees should be made aware of the effects their drug taking is having in the office, on their colleagues and on the company.

Use leverage if possible 

It may be necessary to tell the employee that if they wish to keep their job they must resolve their drinking and drug problems. Assure them that you will support them if they accept help.

Offer professional help and information 

Give them details of the Company Doctor, Occupational Health Practitioner, company therapist, external private therapist or a nearby GP; gather contact details of different professional organisations or rehab clinics that can provide treatment.

Do not take responsibility upon yourself

Do not take the burden of sorting out their problems on yourself. At the end of the day they are the ones who have to face their addiction.

All employers should bear in mind that ignoring an employee with an alcohol or drug addiction in the workplace will make professional life difficult for co-workers and lower team morale and productivity. Fortunately with so many rehab options available professional help is only a phonecall away.