Remote Work & Daytime Substance Abuse Habits

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on July 8, 2023

In general, remote workers are more likely than office workers to misuse substances during the workday. That’s because they lack supervision and, in many cases, don’t get drug tested.

In 2021, 14.8% of Ohioans worked from home. Many of them switched to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic and have stayed with it since. 

While remote employees enjoy benefits such as increased flexibility, they also face a higher risk of substance abuse compared to office workers.

Remote Work & Drug/Alcohol Use

According to a 2021 survey by the drug recovery firm Sierra Tucson, one in five remote workers in the U.S. admitted to using alcohol, marijuana, or other recreational drugs during the workday

Of these workers, 73% admitted that if they had to return to the office, they would miss the opportunity to use drugs while working. 

Alcohol & Marijuana

Similarly, 14% said they prefer remote work because it allows them to drink alcohol on the job, while 11% said they prefer it because it allows them to use marijuana on the job. Both groups said they used these substances to relax during the workday. 

Virtual Work Meetings Under The Influence

Some remote workers also use drugs during virtual work meetings, such as those held on Zoom and MS Teams. About 22% of employees said they had attended a virtual meeting while under the influence of drugs, and 21% had witnessed a co-worker doing the same. 

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Why Do Remote Workers Misuse Drugs During The Day?

Like other workers, remote workers generally misuse drugs to cope with work-related stress and other mental health concerns

Stress & Mental Health

The Sierra Tucson survey showed that 41% of workers who used marijuana during the pandemic did so to manage stress. 

Likewise, 38% used the drug to cope with anxiety, 31% used it to cope with depression, and 20% used it to cope with loneliness. Indeed, remote workers tend to feel more lonely than office workers, which can make them more likely to misuse substances.


Moreover, with flexible work hours and no supervisors around to enforce a drug-free workplace, remote workers find drug use much more convenient than office workers. Also, some employers never subject remote workers to drug testing. In fact, according to the Sierra Tucson survey, over 30% of remote workers don’t believe their employer has the right to test them for drug use.

Dangers Of Remote Work & Daytime Substance Abuse

Whether you work from home or in an office, drug use can take a serious toll on your job performance. That’s because drugs cause impairments in concentration, memory, and overall mental functioning. These effects can lead to issues such as:

  • inconsistent work quality
  • frequent mistakes
  • conflicts among employees
  • decreased productivity
  • absenteeism 

According to a 2022 survey by digital recovery clinic Quit Genius, one in five workers believes substance abuse has impacted their work performance. 

In addition, a National Safety Council survey found that 75% of employers report that opioid misuse among workers has impacted their workplace. However, only 17% of those employers feel well-prepared to address the situation.

Substance Use Disorder

When left untreated, employee substance abuse often leads to substance use disorder (also called drug addiction). This disease makes you feel unable to stop using drugs. 

A 2022 study found that the number of U.S. citizens of working age (ages 25 to 54) with substance use disorder has increased 23% since before the pandemic.  

Untreated substance use disorder can cause serious problems for employees and their companies. According to a 2014 report, substance use disorder costs employers $81 billion every year due to lost productivity, absenteeism, legal liabilities, and other issues.

Addressing Remote Work & Substance Abuse

To prevent the dangers described above, employers should establish support services for remote workers struggling with substance abuse. In particular, they should introduce Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). 


These programs offer free, confidential services for employees facing addiction and other personal concerns. These services typically include:

  • assessments
  • short-term counseling
  • referrals to addiction treatment programs
  • follow-up services

Employers must ensure that all employees know about these services, especially those who show signs of substance abuse. One of the most well-known signs is a sudden decrease in productivity. 

However, workers who misuse stimulant drugs (such as cocaine, meth, or prescription stimulants) may display a sudden increase in productivity. Thus, any drastic shift in productivity could signal substance abuse.

Identify Signs Of Remote Drug Use

Other signs of drug use may include irritability, loss of motivation, and reduced responsiveness. 

In addition, although they may be difficult to detect through virtual meetings, some workers show physical signs such as twitching, bloodshot eyes, changes in speech patterns, and an unusually unkempt appearance. 

Regular Check-Ins

You can identify these signs more easily if you check in with your remote employees on a regular basis. These check-ins keep you updated on each employee’s mental state. They can also help workers feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and seeking support.  

If you or someone you love struggles with substance abuse, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer medical detox, behavioral therapy, and other evidence-based treatments to help you or your loved one stay sober.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Opioids in the Workplace: Data
  2. Cleveland — How many Ohioans work from home?
  3. EHS Today — Drug Abuse Costs Employers $81 Billion Per Year
  4. Fortune — Remote workers with substance use disorders face ‘rude awakening’ in return-to-office mandates
  5. Sierra Tucson — Self-Medication Nation Survey

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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