How to Address Challenging Substance Use Issues at Work 

According to the Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, 74% of Ontarians are experiencing increased mental health and addictions challenges. This has far-reaching impacts given that a person’s substance use may negatively affect their physical and mental health, work, family, friends, finances, spirituality, and sexuality. 

It is important for challenges related to substance use to be addressed at the workplace when they arise. Addressing these issues can improve employee performance, safety, recruitment and retention, and employee mental and physical well-being. It can also reduce absenteeism and turnover, and decrease the cost of employee benefit and disability claims. 

Here are a few actions that you can take if you have reasonable suspicion that an employee has challenges with substance use:

  • Consult the policy: Most workplaces have policies which outline the steps that you should take if an employee is suspected of having a substance use issue. Be familiar with and follow your workplace policy, practices and procedures. If workplace health or safety could be at risk, you must take immediate action. 
  • Approach the employee: Be respectful, compassionate and non-judgmental in your approach. Let them know about the changes that you have observed and be clear that your intent is to show that you care. Offer support and encouragement. This will help create an environment where the employee feels that they can receive assistance without fear and reduce the stigma associated with substance use issues. Your expression of concern may result in the employee deciding to seek help. 
  • Share workplace supports: Remind the employee about the company’s Employee Assistance Program or other sources of assistance that may be available to them. Connex Ontario – an Ontario government-funded agency – provides a wealth of information about addiction and mental health and access to helpful resources. 

Group of people wearing hard hats in warehouse listening to instructor.

If you are concerned about an employee, it is very important to act early. Only a medical professional can diagnose a substance use disorder. The most helpful thing you can do is provide support.

  • Learn more about Renascent’s Workplace Solutions
  • Contact us for a presentation on identifying and addressing substance use in the workplace, please email Isaiah Gayle, Manager, Community Relations and Partnerships at  

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About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.