Dealing with addiction in the workplace

Dealing with addiction in the workplace

Dealing with addiction in the workplace

Addiction in the workplace: As we approach the end of Dry January, those who managed to see it through should feel justifiably proud that they gave up alcohol for the start of the New Year.

The long-term benefits to giving up alcohol are well documented, from losing weight and toning up to reducing cholesterol, blood sugar and liver fat.

The beginning of any year is paved with good intentions. While many people will manage to stick to their resolutions, for those who are dealing with addiction (in all its forms), it takes a lot more than a promise on New Year’s Eve to make a difference in their life.

The growing problem of addiction

An estimated 2 million people in the UK are fighting addiction, and the NHS estimates that around 9% of men in the UK and 4% of UK women show signs of alcohol dependence.

As part of our Choices for Wellbeing series, we look at occupational health and wellbeing advice for employees, covering a wide range of topics.

In this edition, we explore how both employers and employees can recognise the symptoms of addictive behaviour and seek help.

What do we mean by addictive behaviours?

Addiction is when a person takes a substance or carries out an activity that, while pleasurable at first, the continued use of which becomes compulsive.

The person may not even be aware that their behaviour has become out of control and can’t see a problem with their activity or use of the substance.

An addiction can be:

Physical – where the body adapts to the presence of a drug, such as alcohol, cocaine or nicotine, to the extent that the drug no longer has the same effect

Behavioural – where an activity becomes unnaturally habitual, including gambling, shopping, eating, viewing pornography, playing video games, and even texting/messaging.

Symptoms of addiction

While people might not see these symptoms in themselves, friends and family could start to notice that someone has:

  • Cravings or a compulsion to use a substance or activity
  • An inability to limit or stop the use of a substance or activity
  • An increased tolerance to a substance, resulting in the need for higher doses or volumes to achieve the same effect
  • Symptoms of irritability, anxiety, shaking, or nausea when usage is reduced
  • Ill health, a negative mood or low self-respect made worse by the effects of a specific substance

Different forms of addiction

Addiction can take many forms and doesn’t exclusively relate to substance abuse. Here are a few of the more common forms of addiction.


Most of us enjoy an occasional drink, but you may need help if you always feel the need to have a drink, you get into trouble because of your drinking, or other people warn you about how much you’re drinking.

If you have been drinking regularly, then you will need support to ensure that you withdraw from alcohol safely.

Drug addiction

Acknowledging and accepting that you, a family member or friend, has a drug problem is hard, and it can be difficult to know what to do.

With the right help and support, it’s possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.

Mobile technology

New OFCOM research revealed that 37% of adults and 60% of teenagers admitted they were ‘highly addicted’ to their smartphones.

Signs of this particularly modern form of addiction include people texting/messaging while driving, eating, working or having conversations with others, checking their phone before they get out of bed, and being unable to put their phone down for any length of time.


The internet and mobile phones have made gambling much more accessible, allowing people to gamble in the privacy of their home. The anticipation and thrill of gambling create a natural high that can become addictive.

There’s evidence that gambling can be successfully treated in the same way as other addictions.

Eating disorders

An abnormal attitude to food can cause someone to change their eating habits and behaviours, focusing excessively on their weight and shape.

These behaviours can become addictive and treatment for eating disorders is usually a lengthy process, monitoring physical health while dealing with the underlying psychological causes through counselling and self-help techniques.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a mental health condition where a person has obsessive thoughts and exhibits compulsive, repetitive behaviour. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and often spiral into addictive behaviour patterns.

OCD is a medical condition which needs treatment like any other illness.

Treating addiction

Addiction is a treatable condition, and the first step to recovery is recognising that there is a problem.

Once you’ve recognised that you are engaged in addictive behaviour, gradual withdrawal from the substance or activity can be initiated.

Seeing your GP is the first step to recovery.

Types of treatment can include:

  • Behavioural therapy and counselling
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Rehabilitation programmes

Dealing with addiction; Check List

If you or anyone you know is dealing with addiction, here’s a simple checklist that could help you to prioritise your next actions and seek help.

  • Recognise you have a problem
  • Listen to family/friends when they voice concerns
  • Seek medical help at the earliest opportunity
  • Accept it is an illness
  • Understand the reasons behind your behaviours
  • Don’t be embarrassed, ashamed or judge yourself
  • Ask for support
  • Stick to your recovery plan
  • Give yourself praise and credit for your hard work in overcoming your addiction

At Fusion, we not only offer support through our occupational health services to assist individuals that are dealing with addiction, but also offer workplace drug and alcohol testing to help businesses deal with drug and alcohol misuse.

Get in touch today to find out more.

National support for alcohol addiction:

Alcoholics Anonymous


Drinkline – 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm)

National support for drug addiction:

Talk to Frank


National support for gambling addiction:

GamCare Helpline

Gamblers Anonymous