Signs of Drug Misuse and What an Employer Should Do


If you think an employee is misusing drugs, it’s important to look for signs of drug addiction that can help you determine what drug is being used 1.

There are several common signs of regular drug misuse across all kinds of different illicit substances as well as different signs that are unique to the type of substance abused. Knowing what these signs are will help identity an employee who is risking harmful consequences to themselves and to their colleagues.


Common signs can include:


Difficulties in the workplace or disinterest in work related matters

Changes in physical appearance, such as wearing inappropriate or dirty clothing and a lack of interest in grooming.

Negative changes in relationships with colleagues within the workplace

A noticeable lack of energy when performing daily activities.

Bloodshot eyes, poor skin tone, and appearing tired or run down.

Defensiveness when asked about substance use 2


 It should be noted that not all symptoms will indicate a problem with illicit substances and employers should be aware and considerate of staff with different health conditions.


Drugs and the Workplace

Any employer will be very keen to keep illicit substances away from the workplace. As well as having the potential to cause health decline, drug misuse increases the chances of workplace accidents and how productive employees are when carrying out their work.

Due to the potential safety risks, workplaces are advised to have a policy on drug misuse within the workplace. This policy could be drawn up between an employer and their member of staff or health and safety representatives within the workplace 3.


Employers’ Responsibilities

Employers have a legal responsibility to look after employees’ wellbeing. In some cases, drug misuse may be used by employees to help cope with work-related stress. If there is a problem with drug misuse in the workplace then it could be a part of a much larger stress problem 4


Why Screen for Drug Misuse in the Workplace?

Drug testing can play a vita role in ensuring that everyone within the workplace is kept safe, both employees and customers alike. Research carried by the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) found that 59% of respondents agreed that drugs and alcohol are issues of concern 5. Drug abuse can also impact the economy, in 2018 it was estimated that drug abuse cost the UK economy £10.7 billion, this figure includes productivity, crime, policing and NHS 6.


When a Manager Decides They Want to Screen for Drug Misuse

Testing an employee for drug abuse is not always a straightforward area of the law as there are several employment laws and data protection implications that must be considered by employers who wish to do so.

It is advised that an employer should only carry out drug testing on employees where it is justified, necessary and a proportionate response to the situation e.g, there is reasonable suspicion that illegal substances are being misused within the workplace.

There should be a particular concern if there are health and safety considerations, for instance where employees are required to operate vehicles or machinery, or where the occupation of the employee involves taking care of vulnerable people or children 7.


About Us

Randox Testing Services are a specialist drug and alcohol testing company working in both the workplace and medico-legal sectors. We operate across the UK and Ireland, with a global network of trained collection officers. We have a wide variety of drugs we test for to meet your needs. These include common illicit substances such as Cocaine, Opiates and Ecstasy as well as alcohol.


If you’re interested in getting assistance or learn more about implementing an effective testing policy, contact us:



Phone: +44 (0) 28 9445 1011




American Addiction Centers (2024) Signs of Drug Use & Addiction: How To Tell if Someone Is On Drugs (2):

British Safety Management (2023) Drug and alcohol testing at work: getting started (5)

NI Direct (2024) Drug testing and employee monitoring (3):,Drugs%20and%20the%20workplace,a%20policy%20on%20the%20issue.

People Management (2022) Drug testing at work: dos and don’ts for employers (7):

Public Health England (2018) Alcohol and drug prevention, treatment and recovery: why invest? (6):,misuse%20to%20society%20are%20significant.

The Recovery Village (2023) Signs of Drug Use: What To Look Out For (1):

Unison (2022) Alcohol, drugs and substance abuse (4):