Stimulant Abuse in the Workplace

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Updated 08/04/2022

Gone are the days of the typical addict. There is no such thing.

Though the media may have capitalized on the stereotype of the addicted person who is homeless, unemployed, and hallucinating while asking for spare change, the fact is that there are just as many addicts – if not more – who are functional and abusing drugs in an effort to cope with their daily responsibilities.

In fact, according to The New York Times, in a number of different industries, a range of employees are abusing stimulant drugs in an effort to be more productive and more competitive in their fields. Is it a problem for you, your employees, or your coworkers?

College Days

The issue of stimulant abuse in the workplace is no small problem, and it often starts early on in a person’s career. One study printed in the journal Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review found that about 17 percent of kids in college are abusing stimulant drugs.

Their purpose? To aid in their ability to study, enjoy an active social life, manage multiple extracurricular commitments, and often work or engage in an internship as they seek to get into graduate school or get a good entry-level job.

It’s a competitive marketplace for young professionals, and many feel that they will be left behind if they don’t utilize drugs like Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, and other stimulant substances to help them stay up longer and focus.

Once in the workplace, many continue to abuse the drugs in order to keep up with peers and be competitive for promotions. Express Scripts is one of the largest providers of prescription medications in the United States. They report that an estimated 2.6 million adults over the age of 18 were prescribed ADHD medications in 2012, a number that is up 53 percent from 2008. Among adults between the ages of 26 and 34 specifically, the number of people prescribed ADHD stimulant drugs almost doubled.

ADHD Medications

The drugs most commonly abused for the purposes of increased focus at work are medications that are prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (e.g., methylphenidate, amphetamine, dextroamphetamine). They are useful in helping patients who are living with the disorder to manage compulsive behaviors and an inability to focus or follow tasks through to completion; for people who use the drugs but do not have the disorder, they can create a high that is euphoric in nature and allow them to focus for hours on end or avoid sleep for days. Many find these aspects of the medications useful when it comes to accomplishing large amounts of work or detailed projects with tight deadlines.

But how do people come across these highly regulated medications if they aren’t diagnosed with ADHD? Some buy them from patients who are legitimately prescribed the drugs. Others fake the symptoms that would indicate a diagnosis of ADHD in order to get their own prescription for the medications.

Unfortunately, when taken in high doses, these drugs can cause hallucinations, intense anxiety, paranoia, delusions, erratic behavior, and addiction.

Stimulant Abuse and Addiction in the Workplace

It’s not always easy to recognize the signs of stimulant abuse in the office. At first it may appear that the person has everything together: they often stay late and come in early, volunteer to take on extra projects, and complete everything in the minutest detail. But stimulant drugs are not miracle pills. Their use takes a toll over time, and depending upon how often and how much the person uses, their mental health may begin to suffer as will their ability to continue to manage their commitments at work and maintain healthy and functional relationships with coworkers and clients.

Some signs of stimulant abuse include:

  • Rapid or extreme weight loss
  • Staying up for days on end without sleep
  • “Crashing” for days after a binge
  • Extreme mood swings (e.g., “up” and chatty when on the drug, irritable and surly after a binge)

Over time, continued abuse of stimulants can contribute to more extreme versions of these symptoms plus a high level of anxiety or tension. They may lose the “up” associated with drug use and be more anxious, irritable, and erratic in their behavior even when they are on the drug. It can make them difficult to work with and undependable, and it is very obvious that something is wrong, even if it is not readily apparent that drug use is the issue.

Addressing Stimulant Abuse and Addiction

If you are an employer and you have proof that someone on your staff is abusing drugs, how you handle the problem can have a direct impact on your business, your relationship with your employees, and on the life of the drug using person. Employers are encouraged to:

  • Offer all employees access to substance abuse counseling and addiction treatment as needed
  • Offer job protection to employees who seek treatment and return to work sober
  • Protect other employees if the drug use or abuse of one worker is putting others at risk physically, emotionally, or financially

Firing an employee for drug use can be tricky depending upon the contract signed by the employer, state laws, and other issues – especially if the person is abusing a drug that is legally prescribed to them. However, it is important for employers not to turn a blind eye when it is clear that drug use is negatively impacting an employee’s ability to perform at work. Not only does it endanger the company’s bottom line but it can send an unintended negative message and may inadvertently encourage continued drug use.

Seeking Help

If you are abusing stimulant drugs in an effort to remain competitive at work, it won’t be long before the drug itself stops being a help and starts being a hindrance.

Learn more about how treatment can help. Contact us at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake today for more information.

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When you call our team, you will speak to a Recovery Advocate who will answer any questions and perform a pre-assessment to determine your eligibility for treatment. If eligible, we will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If The Recovery Village is not the right fit for you or your loved one, we will help refer you to a facility that is. All calls are 100% free and confidential.

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