Support Service Jobs: Is Your Colleague Showing Signs of Substance Abuse?

The Signs, and What To Do

Are you working support service jobs and think your colleague may be showing signs of substance abuse?

Though it’s hard to imagine, the statistics don’t paint a pretty picture:

  • Approximately 5% of medical professionals are struggling with illicit drug abuse
  • 69% of doctors have misused prescription drugs at least once in their career (2013)
  • Approximately 4% of people working in healthcare have a problem with heavy alcohol consumption

Do hospital workers admit to substance abuse? Not always, especially if they don’t recognize they need support. This is where you can make a difference and protect your colleague, patients, and hospital from the damaging effects of substance abuse.

Here, we show you what to look for, and how to help.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is a broad term that can cause physical, emotional, and social harm, and refers to misuse of a drug or substance. It affects millions of people worldwide and has a huge effect on society.

The definition of substance abuse is not limited to the use of drugs but also includes the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other products as well. It usually leads to addiction when people develop an unhealthy relationship with substances.

Common Signs of Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Substance abuse in the workplace can be a difficult situation to face, and it can be even harder to know how to help a sufferer. First, you must know what the signs are. These can be seen physically, behaviorally, and psychologically:

Physical signs

  • Drowsiness or falling asleep
  • Tremors
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Constricted or dilated pupils
  • Unsteady gait
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes

Behavioral Signs

  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impaired concentration
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia

Work Behaviors

  • Disappearing from the work area
  • Poor timekeeping
  • Frequent absences
  • Noticeable drop in performance
  • Outrageous excuses for behavior
  • Disorganization
  • Increased mistakes and errors
  • Not following safety procedures

What You Can Do to Help Your Colleague Cope with the Problem

There are a few things you mustn’t do that you may think could help, but in fact worsens the situation. Do not:

  • Cover up for them
  • Loan them money
  • Counsel them
  • Call in sick for them
  • Take over their work responsibilities

The final and most important thing is to not fail to take action. You may feel concerned to be in such a position, but for the safety of your colleague who needs help, your fellow support service workers, the patients, and others, you must act:

·      Document What You’ve Noticed

Make a note of the signs you’ve identified that have caused you concern, along with dates and times.

·      Go to Your Supervisor

Ask for a confidential conversation with your supervisor regarding an important matter. In private, raise your concerns along with any documented incidents to help them evaluate the situation. They will take it from here, under the latest regulations and professional guidance.

·      Speak to your HR Department for Guidance

Though you’ve spoken with one individual (your supervisor), you may want to also discuss it with HR, who can help you continue your support service job feeling safe, as well as offer further latest guidelines and advice. This will help you to continue enjoying your role with confidence, as well as support your colleague in getting the help they need.

Finally, remember that you have done a great deed in keeping yourself, your colleagues, the patients, and a sufferer of substance abuse safer. You’ve done a brave and difficult thing. Well done.

We’re Here to Help

Acting on signs of substance abuse is not betraying a colleague. It’s helping. Be vigilant, be worthy to be called a colleague and a friend, and be aware of the effects on others.

If you would like impartial advice, or advice about your rights and responsibilities toward substance abusers in support service jobs, contact HireCare today. Always remember that you’re not alone, and we’re here to support you in doing the right thing, the right way.

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