My coworker has been showing up to work dopey and drugged out most of the time I've been in my role. On a company trip, he has talked about how he takes Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Adderall (although I am sure that is not a complete list). His nose is constantly red and runny. His eyes are constantly red. He's fidgety. Other company employees have seen him like this too. His boss travels a lot, and he unsurprisingly is much more drugged out on days where his boss is gone. I am not sure how much his boss has seen/heard from him first hand while he has been impaired.

Because my success does not ride on his success, I haven't, up until now, gone to my boss or other higher ups to complain (I don't like to cause trouble). To complicate matters more, he was referred by a director at my company.

Today though, he mumbled at coworkers completely incoherently while drooling, and seemed to lack control of his body as he flailed his arms, making physical contact with some coworkers. Other people saw his actions.

I had to talk to HR today, and am being asked to speak to them again more. I am no longer comfortable working with this person. He should have been fired on the spot as far as I'm concerned, but other managers have given me excuses as to why they couldn't fire him, such as them not being able to smell alcohol on his breath. I'm concerned that this person will get a slap on the wrist at worst, when in reality he should be fired, or at the very least put on leave until getting results from a drug test. I am also concerned that HR will try to minimize or play down what happened (I am not an unreasonable person).

What should I do?

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    How does your colleague get to work? Because if he is driving in such a state then he is endangering the general public. If so, then you have more options than just HR.
    – Peter M
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 12:04
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    @PeterM And if the drugged coworker operates heavy machinery or a vehicle, OSHA might get involved.
    – Cloud
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 14:15
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    @anon_needing_advice You assume a lot. Sometime there are things going on behind the scenes in office politics that you have no knowledge of. This person could have an illness or disability or injury which required them to take said medications. Or, he could just be a drug addict. You don't know, it's not your business to know or to find out. All you can do now is report incidents to HR and allow that department to take care of things. Been there, done that, your journey through this could be short or long.
    – Andieisme
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 21:23
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    What negative business impacts does his "drugged out" state cause? Is his productivity down? Quality of work down? If he is meeting expectations for his job and not causing other problems, your case against this person is not business related, but personal, and that won't go very far.
    – user45269
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 20:53

4 Answers 4


Im posting this as an answer because I dont have enough reputation to comment.

Since all of the drugs you listed your coworker using are prescription, it is entirely possible that he is not doing anything wrong here. It may be that his state of mind bloodshot eyes etc are unwanted side effects of necessary medications. I would suggest reporting your complaint to HR who will be able to discuss accommodation for any disability that he may have (or for the side effects of drugs that treat said disability).

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    You make a good point. It's always possible that his unusual behavior could be mistaken for substance abuse. But one should always take some form of appropriate action if safety is a concern.
    – user12985
    Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 19:06

First off, I'm sorry that you and your coworkers have to deal with this without a prompt solution, and I hope that the employee gets the help that they need. This is never easy for anyone involved.

For the most part, it seems like the ball has at least started to get rolling (albeit not at the timing or pace you'd of liked), but at least HR has started a conversation about the unprofessional behavior.

You, personally, have a couple options:

  1. Press the issue
  2. Ignore the issue
  3. Somewhere in the middle
  4. Find employment elsewhere

Unfortunately, in a workplace, these are pretty much the only options when it comes to the behavior of others. We can change our behavior, but most of the time, we cannot change the behavior of others.

If you are concerned about not "rocking the boat" or causing trouble, then one option would be to anonymously report your observations to HR. Nobody likes a snitch, but if the problem is affecting everyone (which it seems to be), sometimes bringing it to HR's attention is necessary for the common good.

In this case, I would not recommend ignoring the problem because of the repercussions in allowing the behavior to continue, not only for your sake, and the sake of your other coworkers, but also for the well-being of the coworker in question. He may be the director's recommended hire, but that is not an excuse for this kind of behavior in any respectable company.

If you are one of the primary observers of this behavior, my suggestion would be to take the middle road and discreetly continue the conversation with HR (anonymously or not). It's always possible that no one has dealt with this issue because no one wants to. However, bringing the appropriate people's attention to the issue will be better in the end for all parties involved, even if it means having to endure some uncomfortable conversations about what you've witnessed.

Because of the sensitivity here, I would not recommend discussing what you've seen or heard with the other employees. That job is for HR, in determining the extent of the problem and coming to a resolution that is best for the company. I would also recommend all of the discussion with HR be documented in some way (take notes during or immediately afterwards, for example). I would recommend your attitude/tone when discussing this HR to be of concern and optimism, not gossipy or judgmental.

If, after all is said and done, the employee ends up getting a slap on wrist and the behavior doesn't stop, then I would personally find another place to work. I would not feel comfortable working with someone who behaves in that way, but I would feel even more uncomfortable working for a company that tolerates that kind of behavior.

Edit: folks in comments also made some good points related to workplace safety. If the employee in question is putting himself or others in harms way, whether on the job site or on his way to it (ie. driving while intoxicated), you also have the option to report that to the appropriate governing body, whether that be OSHA, a similar workplace safety board in your state or industry, or law enforcement. If he brings illegal narcotics into the workplace, you can also report this to people outside of just HR, but I would still recommend speaking with them first, as they should be the liaison between employees and the company itself.


You could be completely wrong about this co worker being "drugged out". You mention the following observable symptoms:

His nose is constantly red and runny

This is a common symptom of many illnesses. It certainly does not imply being under the effect of drugs.

His eyes are constantly red

This often occurs for many reasons including tiredness and many other minor afflictions. It's not necessarily connected to drugs

He's fidgety

Lots of my co workers are fidgety. That doesn't lead me to conclude that they are on drugs.

He's told you that he takes certain prescription medicine. So do many people. That doesn't mean he's abusing them. Many people regularly take prescription medicine. Of course it's possible that you're right and he is "drugged out". Maybe even probable. But from what you've said in this question, there is not enough information to know for sure.

You speak of one incident in which he connected physically with other colleagues. Clearly that is unacceptable, and you did the right thing to report it to HR. It is in their hands now. In my opinion you shouldn't take it any further unless asked for more information.

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    And the listed medication can certainly give the impression someone is "drugged out". We're talking opioid painkillers here, their side effects are rather similar to those of heroin abuse...
    – jwenting
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 5:52

The list of priorities in such a case is:

  1. Your safety
  2. Your other colleagues safety
  3. The safety of the colleague showing up drugged while at work
  4. The health of the colleague showing up drugged
  5. Protecting your company against direct material loss
  6. Trying to keep the workplace morale at an acceptable standard

1-3 are thing which you have to address directly with HR and/or the person responsible for safety in the company. 4 you could mention to your colleague 5-6 are thing which you should discuss with your boss once. It's his task to determine the right steps. Don't make accusations or draw conclusions, just state the facts; don't suggest actions.

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