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Now, I have to clarify: I'm not sure it's exactly what happened, or if it counts as "drug usage" or getting high. I have little to no experience with either topic. I'll just describe the event:

During a meeting a day ago, we were discussing a project on a whiteboard. While everyone was turned away, I saw him use the whiteboard marker pen like a nasal spray (seemingly inserting the tip in his nose and inhaling), before putting the cap back on. He looked up, and saw me seeing him. I didn't bring it up.

I'm working under the assumption that doing that gets you high, or something of that sort.

Now I'm dealing with these problems:

  • I'm conflicted about even getting involved at all. It's his choice to do these things, not mine; and I don't want him to get in trouble because of me. At the same time, I feel guilty for basically acting like nothing happened and the potential long-term issues my team might have with him through this.
  • There is this awkward avoidance going on since I saw him, probably because he isn't sure if I saw it all or not. I absolutely don't feel confident bringing this up (how would I even do that?). I feel It might even be interpreted as blackmail, since the cat is out of the bag once I mention it; even if I wanted to, we aren't exactly in private. I don't do well on these things at all, as I have a lot of anxiety even in friendly social interactions.
  • It's a small company and he is a key employee for it. If drug abuse leads to him crashing, it could have consequences for the whole team.
  • The issue has been stuck in my head, unresolved - and is distracting me from my work. It made me rethink prior behaviors of him; as he tends to go to the bathroom a lot (easily a dozen times per day). I can't help but now think it's for more quick highs. Am I overreacting?

My question is: How should I approach this situation? Should I just forget about it and let it run it's course, potentially risking screwing the company? Should I approach my supervisor about this (meaning, there's no way back; and my colleague would know that it was me ratting him out)? Would talking to my colleague even have any benefit at all, since I can't exactly force him to quit whatever he does?

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  • 1
    "seemingly inserting the tip in his nose and inhaling" Maybe he just likes the smell of the solvents in the ingredients of the color of said white-board marker? Jokes aside - since you are not their superior I would let it go and mind your own business.. In regards to "consequences for the whole team." - that bus-factor should be dealt with by your manager/superior regardless of your colleauges cravings for whiteboard-markers..
    – iLuvLogix
    Sep 30, 2021 at 13:32
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    "What is that strange smell?", thought the co-worker. "Perhaps it's coming from this marker pen". He then proceeded to smell the marker pen to validate his theory. Little did he know, his curiosity was about to cost him his job...
    – musefan
    Sep 30, 2021 at 14:10
  • Can you prove that he did it? The only possible outcome from you reporting him is that you will become the person that nobody will trust. Even if he decides to admit his addiction when questioned, you will still be the person that nobody will trust. So the question is, do you want to be that person?
    – musefan
    Sep 30, 2021 at 14:13
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    Dry erase or whiteboard markers used to contain the chemicals xylene and toluene, and some markers may still contain these chemicals, but you'd have to prove that this particular marker contained these chemicals, that your colleague knows this, and that they sniffed the marker for the sole purpose of getting high. A tall order on your part. Some people just like the odor of dry erase or whiteboard markers. Your colleague may be one of these people. Let it go.
    – joeqwerty
    Sep 30, 2021 at 14:50

2 Answers 2

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Let it go.

What this coworker chooses to do with their body is their business, not yours.

If this employee is as important to the company as you imply, I would talk to your supervisor....not to mention or talk about this specific employee in any way, but to ask to be cross-trained in the work that all of your coworkers are doing. If the supervisor doesn't already have a plan for any one of his employees being unable to perform their work for whatever reason then hopefully your request will get them to at least think about it.

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  • I'm not sure if that will be an option. The company is already kind of struggling (and rather small), so everyone basically has to pull his full weight and is specialized into their own niche. Redundancies aren't a thing yet. The colleague I mentioned happens to be the same guy who kind of brought the company back from the brink, with a lot of vitamin B - it's not his skills that make him important, his connections are. That's why I feel conflicted about inaction, as the whole situation isn't stable as-is. I'll try to follow the advice and let it go, and hope for the best for everyone.
    – Claire
    Sep 30, 2021 at 13:26
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    @Claire - So report what you saw if you feel that strongly, but you are going to put your nose into business, that isn’t your business. If you saw it others probably saw it, sniffing markers, is something you do because you have a problem (or because your joking around and are purposefully acting like an idiot). Actual worthwhile employees don’t sniff markers as “nasal spray” they might “sniff” them to see if they are scented. While I believe it’s not your business that only because your NOT their supervisor. Has nothing to do with “ratting” on someone.
    – Donald
    Sep 30, 2021 at 13:36
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    @Claire Just for the benefit of non-German speakers “vitamin B”=“Beziehungen”=relationships. Sep 30, 2021 at 13:58
  • @JoeStevens Glad you cleared that up. I genuinely thought he had fixed some supply chain issues or something like that.
    – musefan
    Sep 30, 2021 at 14:16
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Inhaling sharpie vapors can have serious health consequences. Considering how mild and lame a Sharpie-induced high tends to be, the negatives are potentially shockingly serious. Perhaps you might share the link below with your coworker anonymously. I would limit my involvement to that. If he has a drug problem, that's his supervisor's job to deal with.

https://www.wbir.com/article/news/verify/verify-is-it-dangerous-to-smell-sharpies/51-461053202

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