Watch for warning signs of drug abuse, drug theft

Drug abuse and theft can be difficult to spot, but risk managers provide this list of characteristic warning signs to watch for in health care providers:

• Sleepiness at work or sleeping in one’s car.

• A change in attitude, especially increased anxiety or paranoia.

• Unexplained mood swings or dramatic changes in energy levels.

• Surreptitious or questionable behavior, especially with drugs and drug records.

• Errors at work, including medication errors and forgetting how to use equipment.

• A decline in handwriting. (This may be difficult to spot with physicians, given the state of their handwriting when perfectly sober.)

• Increased absences and tardiness.

• An unusual amount of time spent alone in the bathroom or other areas away from colleagues and the usual work area.

• A strong desire to work the second or third shifts, when there often is less direct supervision

• A change in appearance, especially when a usually well-groomed person appears disheveled at work.

• Wearing long-sleeved lab coats or other long-sleeved clothing when it seems inappropriate. (Sleeves can cover needle marks and bruises.)

• Slurred speech, dilated pupils, and other physical signs of impairment.