Work colleague; slurred speech and stumbling on Fridays and Saturdays - ?innocent meds?

Anarchy

MyPTSD Pro
An ongoing issue at work

Several times on a Saturday morning, and most recently on a Friday afternoon

One of the guys has been noticeably not right

Speech slurred, stumbling around, pupils dilated. No smell of alcohol.

Can anyone help please with background info on whether things like benzos are issued in Britain for people to use at times of stress etc?

I'm in a supervisory / management role, and it's an environment with lots of hazards, like heavy things that can fall, machines capable of severing limbs or worse, high pressure gasses, some nasty reactive chemicals...

The guy is in his late 20s (young compared to the rest of us)
He's a good worker, pleasant to be around, and his skills are coming on well.

I know that he has had mental health issues and has attempted suicide in the fairly recent past, I don't know the details, and I'm not legally (or morally) in a position to ask.

He says that he hasn't taken any substances.

It has been noticeable on Saturday shifts, and now once on a Friday afternoon

That possibly suggests recreational use. It could also be a stressful time when he takes prescription drugs that he's not under an obligation to tell us about.

I'm not interested in substance use away from work

What I am interested in, is his safety and effectiveness when he's at work

And how to approach that without stressing the guy out, or prying into his private medical matters.

If it is substances for medical use, I can put him on light duties in a safe area,

If it is recreational, then he's going to need to clean his act up and be fully coherent when he's at work.

Many thanks
 

NoWhereKnowWhere

MyPTSD Pro
Can anyone help please with background info on whether things like benzos are issued in Britain for people to use at times of stress etc?
I’ve got diazepam from nhs GP. Some sleeping tablets can make you pretty f*cked in the morning especially if your still not sleeping with them.

surely if it’s a safety critical role he is obliged to tell you if he’s taking something that I know I had to. And also had “random” drug tests.

edited to add.
the street Valium that’s pretty popular at the moment in the uk is very dangerous and I know a few people accidentally overdosing as it has fentanyl in it. It might be an idea to make sure there’s naloxone in your first aid kit at work. You can generally find it for free at your local harm reduction charity or a lot of local authorities are giving it out. Literally saves lives.
 
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Sideways

Moderator
Speech slurred, stumbling around, pupils dilated
IME benzos, at the point where they're slurring your speech, would most likely put you to sleep.

It may be other meds, of course, that have these side effects, but I'm not sure what it is matters much, given:
What I am interested in, is his safety and effectiveness when he's at work
If you've noticed, concerned about his (and others) safety, and you're the supervisor, it sounds like it's time for a conversation. So that he can be shifted to something else (or sent home) when it's not safe for him to work.

If it's prescription drugs having this impact? Then it'll be on medication information that he shouldn't do certification things if the meds impact him this way. It may be he doesn't realise how bad it is (I'm following the "assume it's not street drugs" path here).

If you point it out, he can have a conversation with his prescribing doctor to change the dose, or change the meds, so that he can work safely.
And how to approach that without stressing the guy out, or prying into his private medical matters.
If you approach it from "if you're taking medication that's causing this, just let me know when you've sorted it out with your doctor and you can return to your normal duties...", that gives him the opportunity to not tell you.

But it also gives him the heads up that coming to work so off his face that he can't even talk properly? Isn't acceptable.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
I have diazepam (valium) on the NHS for occasional use when I’m really struggling to down regulate myself. It’s usually pretty difficult to get because it’s so potentially addictive. So, GPs here are often reluctant to prescribe it at all. Or they will prescribe it as a very small number of tablets (I have been given 3 in the past! And 7!) I’m lucky in that now I get 28 at a time. But they last me 6 months plus and my GP knows I have therapy and I think she just trusts that, seeing as I’m not running out and asking for more every month, I’m taking them sensibly and not in danger of getting hooked.



So, yes, you can get benzos on prescription. But it’s quite difficult, you don’t tend to get loads and you certainly don’t tend to get given them to take on a regular basis as GPs are terrified of patients becoming addicted.

Even if I take two of the max 5mg strength (which I rarely need to), I wouldn’t be slurring or barely able to stand/walk. And, as @Sideways says, probably if you had taken a high dose and we’re really feeling it, I would have thought it’s more likely that you’d feel sleepy/fall asleep rather than carrying on at work slurring your words.

I guess he may be taking a low dose and be sensitive to it? Even then though, I think the main thing would be trying to stay awake if it was having that much effect.

Sleeping pills could cause his behaviours, I guess (though, again, he is managing to stay awake) Perhaps aftermath of taking them the night before? But that wouldn’t really explain him displaying this in the afternoon?

He could also be on antidepressants that are having a sedative effect.

It’s such a tricky thing to broach and deal with in the workplace and impossible to know by what you’ve described if the cause is something legal or illegal! But, if it’s meaning he can’t do his job effectively and/or is a H&S risk it’s not really something you can turn a blind eye to.

Are you able to speak informally and non-specifically (ie. without identifying him) or to consult your company handbook to find out how you could approach this with him? With mental health stuff and physical health, you can potentially talk about it but it’s a bit of a minefield - if you’re not sure what’s ok to say/ask and what’s not, you could end up falling foul of discrimination legislation. So, I’d definitely check that out before having a conversation with him, just to cover yourself so you don’t accidentally say something that could land you in hot water.
 
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Friday

Moderator
If you've noticed, concerned about his (and others) safety, and you're the supervisor, it sounds like it's time for a conversation. So that he can be shifted to something else (or sent home) when it's not safe for him to work.
This.

Whther it’s prescription, recreational, a head trauma, or something else…?

- You need to find out what’s going on so that you can take appropriate action.
- He needs to know it’s affecting his work, & compromising the safety of himself & others.
 
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PlainJane

Moderator
And how to approach that without stressing the guy out, or prying into his private medical matters.

There isn’t going to be an approach completely stress free. When I have to approach a team member about this issue (happens about three or four times a year) I get straight to it, I don’t let them wonder why they’re in my office for long, prolonging any anxiety. I try to let my countenance show my genuine concern for them. Most respond well to it, others prefer other methods. But it absolutely needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later.

As to how they respond to you, is all up to them. You’re not responsible for that. You’re priority is the safety of everyone there and he is compromising that.

I was on the other side of this conversation at one point, after taking meds that I had a bad reaction to. I had no idea I was “off”, I knew I didn’t feel well but I always work through not feeling well. The biggest thing that helped me, was my supervisor, although firm and serious about the subject, helped me with getting a doctors appointment ASAP to change meds and get on a phone line with crisis services. Then in the days following, obviously checking in on me, she never treated me as incompetent at doing my job. She treated me the same as any other day. That’s my personal experience in a nut shell, hopefully helpful.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @Anarchy , I have a thought: going by as others have said the policies and your scope, you could begin (and end) by saying:

He's a good worker, pleasant to be around, and his skills are coming on well.
and that you are concerned, as to whatever the cause ( even sleeplessness, blood sugar/ Diabetes can cause that; and there's even a rare condition where eating carbs is converted in to alcohol in the stomach, fwiw) you have noticed x,y and z, , but that it is out of character for him and that you are:
interested in, is his safety and effectiveness when he's at work
(particularly the safety component), because as his Suoervisor you'd be remiss not to discuss it with him.

Since there are MH issues, and it could involve a substance (and definitely likely personal health information) I would find out where to go with it before saying anything.
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
In that position, I would approach it simply and head on as much as possible. I would also try to make this as quick and discreet as possible.

- Start with his value to the team and company.
- Acknowledge his health issues you know about - with care and empathy.
- Explain what you are seeing. Ask if it might help if you pull him aside when you see him having trouble again. Be aware he may not know whats going on with himself.
- Explain that its a safety issue with serious consequences for the company, for you, for him, and that it can not continue, but you are willing to accommodate him because he is a valued employee.
- Have a plan ready for alternate work for him when he is affected and get his feedback. Make the transition smooth with no fuss and without calling attention to the change.
- Have a plan for him to be able to discreetly let you know when he is moving to alternate work, or that when he is affected you can ask for his "help" in a safer area.

Don't dance around the subject, go strait at it. Approach him with care and empathy. Be very clear with your expectations.
 
Xanax did the same thing to me and I didn't realize I had those symptoms of slurring my speech and kind of stumbling around to myself I seen fine but two other people there was definitely something wrong with me and it was from taking too much Xanax...
 

Anarchy

MyPTSD Pro
Many thanks for all of the help.

We spoke to the guy that Friday afternoon, asking how he was, saying that we'd noticed that he didn't look well.

He went on to self harm over the weekend, and inflicted sufficient damage to need medical attention afterwards.

He's currently got a sick note, while he recovers from his self inflicted injuries.

He was overly talkative when he was on the telephone to the general manager after the medical attention - again, the suspicion of substance abuse, rather than prescription meds.

General manager and myself have discussed the situation at length, and general manager has discussed with HR at the Head office.

We've got another site near by, that has far fewer of the hazards such as machinery, chemicals, suspended loads.

We regularly move guys between the two sites, for example, I spent two days at that site last week.

When he gets back from sick leave, we're going have him working at that less hazardous site.

We are also going to be changing the work place policies, so that only specifically authorised people can work in certain areas, or with certain processes and procedures.

The policy had been that only specific people (eg people who'd previously been to prison) were excluded from training for some processes, or entering some places.

I know that the guy is going to feel those changes.

I also know that I would have no excuse, if he was injured or killed at the more hazardous site.

If it was an office job, it probably wouldn't have been noticed, let alone become an issue 🙄


Thanks again
 
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