Spotting Substance Abuse: Substances and Symptoms

Posted on December 30, 2013 by VITAL WorkLife

Here are some important facts about alcohol and other substances that may be affecting your employees and their performance:


  • A 12 oz. can of beer, 5 oz. glass of wine and 1-½ oz. shot of hard liquor contain equal amounts of alcohol
  • Cold showers, coffee and/or exercise do not quicken sobriety
  • Each 1 ½ oz. of alcohol takes the body, on average, an hour to process and eliminate
  • Immediate signs include small/large motor control problems, slurred speech, recognizable odor


  • Typically smoked, can be ingested
  • Immediate signs include bloodshot or red eyes and possibly hunger
  • Affects judgment, coordination and motor abilities
  • Long-term effects include lack of concentration and motivation
  • Can be detected 30+ days after use

Synthetic Marijuana

  • Typically smoked
  • Mix of organic plant materials mixed with dangerous synthetic compounds
  • Immediate signs: elevated heart rate, nausea, headaches, dry mouth, irritability, disorientation, hallucinations, vomiting or sickness, aggression
  • Not detected in standard drug test for marijuana
  • Up to ten times stronger than marijuana, causing seizures, overdoses, suicides
  • Not detected in standard drug test for marijuana
  • Detection dependent on chemicals used and testing battery


  • Typically snorted—can be smoked
  • Crack cocaine is one of the most addictive substances known
  • Immediate signs include talkativeness, excitability, repeated sniffing, dilated pupils
  • Excessive use can induce vomiting, rapid heart beat, tremors and damage to lining in nasal cavities
  • Can be detected 2-4 days after use


  • Typically snorted, smoked, injected, ingested
  • Also called: speed, uppers, fluff, glass, crystal, ice
  • Immediate signs include dilated pupils, distorted thinking
  • Long term effects include weight loss, restlessness, anxiety, mood swings, panic, agitation, paranoia, brain damage, dental problems, scabs
  • Can be detected 1-2 days after use


  • Most often injected; however, high-purity heroin can be smoked or snorted
  • Processed from morphine—extracted from the seed of poppy plants
  • Immediate signs include euphoria, disorientation, constricted pupils, dry mouth, heavy extremities
  • Stays in system 4-7 days

Tags in this post

Interested in learning more?  

Contact Us

All Entries

Get New Insights Delivered to Your Inbox