Understanding the Impacts of Alcoholism on the Workplace

alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the workplace

Research on substance abuse and addiction estimates that about 29.5 million people in the United States live with an alcohol use disorder (AUD).[1] While many people may assume that people with an AUD cannot function in their daily life, the majority are employed.

Alcohol use is common and widely accepted in our culture, and most American adults drink occasionally. With so many working people living with an AUD and the availability of alcohol, it’s easy to imagine that alcohol abuse may have an impact in the workplace.

So, what are the impacts of alcoholism in the workplace? This article will explore the connection between alcohol use and negative outcomes at work. If you or someone you love live with alcohol abuse or addiction, don’t wait for the treatment you need to recover. Reach out to the caring specialists at Moving Mountains Recovery to learn about our holistic treatment programs or to find support at any stage of recovery.

Recognizing Alcoholism in the Workplace

Identifying alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the workplace can be the first step toward seeking the treatment needed to begin the journey toward lifelong recovery. Alcoholism often causes significant emotional, physical, and behavioral changes that others may notice. You may notice things like:

  • Loss of coordination and unsteady gait
  • The smell of alcohol
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Tremors in the body and hands
  • Falling asleep while working
  • Changes in appearance, mood, and behavior

Some of the behavioral symptoms of an alcohol use disorder include:

  • Consuming more alcohol than the person planned to
  • Wanting or trying to drink less but being unable to do
  • Spending a great deal of time getting alcohol, drinking, and recovering from alcohol use
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Experiencing more interpersonal difficulty and conflict due to drinking
  • Drinking despite experiencing negative consequences
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking or drink less
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while drinking, such as driving under the influence or operating heavy machinery
  • Developing tolerance to alcohol, meaning they need to drink more to get the desired effects

Anyone experiencing at least two of these symptoms may meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.

The Effects of Alcoholism in the Workplace

Alcoholism can impact anyone, even those who don’t have a drinking problem themselves. When one employee is struggling, everyone can be affected.

There are several effects of alcoholism in the workplace. Here are some of the most significant.

Frequent absences

Managers may notice that an employee begins to miss more days of work than they did in the past. They may start coming in late or calling in sick at the last minute more frequently, especially on Mondays or Fridays. People with alcohol abuse may spend a lot of time and energy drinking and experiencing hangovers, making maintaining a regular work schedule challenging. They may often end up drinking more than they planned, leaving them too intoxicated to go to work.

Interpersonal conflicts

Alcohol abuse can make people more likely to get into verbal or physical altercations with other staff, clients, or customers. Alcohol often lowers a person’s inhibitions, making people more likely to do and say things they wouldn’t if they were sober.

Poor performance

One of the most significant effects of alcoholism in the workplace is a noticeable decline in a person’s work performance. People may begin to make careless mistakes, miss deadlines, or turn in incomplete work. An employee who was once reliable may become erratic, disorganized, and difficult to work with.

Accidents and injuries

People who come to work intoxicated or hungover are more likely to cause accidents or injuries. This can happen in many workplaces, including those with heavy machinery. People may drive trucks or other equipment while intoxicated, putting themselves and others at great risk of harm. They are also at risk of different kinds of injuries like falls, burns, and physical assault.

When someone with an alcohol use disorder, they are often unable to adequately care for themselves or manage their daily responsibilities. This can dramatically impact their work performance and their ability to work well with coworkers, clients, and others.

Can You Make an Employee Go to Rehab?

Alcoholism in the workplace creates an unsafe environment for everyone involved, and it is in an employer’s best interest for people to seek addiction treatment when they need it. However, forcing an employee to go to rehab isn’t always possible.

In many cases, an employer may be able to stage an intervention to encourage an employee to seek treatment. They may also require people to seek treatment as part of their employment contract, meaning an employee with an AUD cannot return to work unless they go to rehab.

Find Help Now

If you or someone you know require treatment for an alcohol use disorder, don’t wait for the condition to get worse before seeking treatment. Effective treatment for professionals can allow you to regain control of your life and health. Reach out to the caring team of specialists at Moving Mountains Recovery to explore our holistic treatment programs.


  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol Facts and Statistics, Retrieved May 2023 from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-disorder-aud-united-states-age-groups-and-demographic-characteristics
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