So you noticed that a colleague at work had been acting rather oddly the past week. First, you see him just staring blankly into space while sitting at his desk. Then, as you passed by each other on your way to the water cooler, you notice that your co-worker’s eyes are bloodshot and glazed. Later, as he handed you some documents, you couldn’t help but notice that he keeps on wearing long-sleeved shirts even when the weather is hot. With everything you’ve observed, you are beginning to suspect your work colleague is using drugs.
If you suspect that a colleague is taking drugs, you couldn’t just ignore it and hope it will pass, especially if that colleague also happens to be a friend. There must be something you can do, and here are some ideas that will help not only your colleague, but the company you’re both working for, as well.
Make sure there is drug abuse involved
Before you go around talking to your colleague or to someone from human resources about your suspicions, you need to be sure that there is indeed drug abuse involved first. Some common illnesses have the same symptoms as drug abuse, and you need to be sure that you’re colleague isn’t just stressed out, suffering from insomnia, or just plain sick from something else.
Educate yourself about drug addiction
You would do well to read up on drug addiction facts, which would help you learn the tell-tale signs of drug addiction in the workplace. Your colleague’s performance at work should also be taken note of. Are there more errors than usual in his work? Is he absent most of the time? His behaviour around the office should also be observed, particularly when that behaviour involves incessantly borrowing money or whining about money problems. If his behaviour starts making an adverse impact on your company’s otherwise healthy workplace culture, then it’s time to do something about it.
All your observations about your colleague should be put in writing, and take pains to keep everything private. Your notes should include important details, such as dates and times of incidents, witnesses to such incidents and the work tasks affected by your colleague’s poor work performance, among other things. If you think you have gathered enough evidence and you firmly believe that your colleague is in fact a drug abuser, that’s the time you have to take action to protect yourself, your other colleagues and the company.
Follow procedures outlined in workplace drug policy
Before making any kind of move, make sure that your company has undertaken drug safety policy development and has a clearly-worded drug policy in place. If the company has such a policy, follow the procedures outlined in it when it comes to reporting transgressors.
If your company has no workplace drug policy, one thing you can do is talk to someone from human resources or the most appropriate person in your company such as a manager or a supervisor. Many organisations, particularly the bigger ones, have training programs in place that equip them to handle cases of drug addiction and alcoholism in the workplace.
You can also talk to your health and safety representative, or even a member of a formal committee that is concerned with health and safety in the workplace. Share with any of them your concerns about your co-worker, and show them your documentation.
Don’t feel guilty about reporting a drug-addicted colleague
It’s but natural feel a twinge of guilt about reporting a colleague with a drug problem to management. However, while it is unfortunate that you had to find yourself in such a position, never for a moment think that what you’re thinking about doing is wrong. If anything, reporting your colleague is the right thing to do. Apart from helping prevent potential disasters at work that may arise out of one’s drug abuse, reporting your colleague is also the best thing you can do to help that person. Once your colleague’s drug abuse is confirmed, that should pave the way for the professional help he or she needs. By reporting a drug addicted colleague, you will be a major contributor to his or her safety and well-being.
Talking to the affected colleague could be tricky
Now you might be thinking about talking to your colleague yourself, especially if you’re friends. However, this option could get real tricky real fast. Drug abusers in general tend to get very defensive about their drug habit, and are likely to become enraged at the thought of you telling them about your suspicions. So unless you’re pretty close to the suspected drug abuser, we don’t recommend taking this route.
If, in any case, you’re close to the colleague in question and you’d like to give it a try anyway, we recommend consulting a drug counsellor on how best to talk to a drug abuser about his drug problem. Preferably, talk to your colleague outside of working hours and away from the workplace. It’s absolutely important that you remain calm and non-judgemental when talking to the person. Explain how his apparent drug use is affecting you and everyone else at work, and it would help if you give concrete, undeniable examples.
Most importantly, you have to offer your friend support and encourage him to seek the help of a professional. After all, everyone deserves a second chance.