The High Cost of Drug Addiction in the Workplace

The High Cost of Drug Addiction in the Workplace

August 12, 2018

Drug addiction exacts a high toll on addicted individuals and their loved ones, but they are not the only ones who suffer from untreated substance abuse issues. Drug addiction also affects employers in several important ways.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 70% of people with a substance use disorder maintain employment in some form, which means that employers are being impacted by this disease and its consequences.

Here are several ways that drug addiction affects employers, as well as ways that a company can address this pervasive issue.

Monetary Costs of Workplace Drug Addiction

Above all else, drug addiction is costing employers a great deal of cash. According to figures released by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), drug abuse costs employers upwards of $81 billion each year. These monetary losses are due to high turnover rates, reductions in productivity, workplace theft, higher absenteeism, more sick time use, and a lower quality of work. Of those 70% of substance abusers that remain employed, more than 42% admit that their work productivity suffers due to their use.

* The National Safety Council and national nonprofit Shatterproof have collaborated with an independent research institution, NORC at the University of Chicago to design “The Real Cost of Substance Use to Employers” tool, an authoritative, easy-to-use tool providing business leaders with specific information about the cost of substance use (including prescription drug misuse, alcohol misuse, opioid and heroin addiction as well as misuse of other illicit drugs and marijuana) in their workplace based on size of employee base, industry and state. [Click Here to Learn More]

Employee Morale Affects of Drug Addiction

If your workplace has employees who are using drugs, there is a good chance that employee morale and the company culture is going to suffer. Drug addiction causes users to behave in a less than consistent manner, which is not conducive to most work environments. When employees are frequently absent, less productive, or behave erratically at work, others in the workplace will tend to become resentful. In the best case scenario, morale will suffer. In the worst case scenario, someone could become injured or have their legal rights infringed upon.

The Dangers of Workplace Substance Abuse

When workers are abusing drugs on the job, there is an increased danger of either physical or emotional injury. Alcohol and drug use at work increases the risk of occupational injuries and fatalities. More than 10% of workplace deaths involve alcohol. While more than 50% of companies today require pre-employment drug testing, this does not protect workers after they have been hired. Drug use at work can also cause employees to make poor choices about the way they treat customers or co-workers, which could lead to legal issues and damage to the employer brand.

Societal Costs of Drug Addiction in the Workplace

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the annual economic impact of illicit drugs in the U.S. $193 billion. When employees use drugs at work, their lower productivity affects company costs and profit margins. Healthcare costs for employees with addiction issues are estimated to be twice those of other employees. While addiction should be viewed and treated as an illness, the costs associated with untreated drug addiction will affect society by way of skyrocketing health care premiums.

How to Address and Reduce Workplace Drug Addiction

The best way to address and reduce workplace drug addiction is for employers to adopt a drug-free work environment. Employers must educate both themselves and employees on the signs of drug addiction and then have procedures in place to get help for an employee when necessary. Most state laws allow employers to randomly drug test employees, but the guidelines vary by state. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), sometimes offered through group health insurance plans, are also effective ways to address drug addiction issues within an organization.

When an employer supports addiction treatment programs for employees in need, the positive effects can be great. This support reduces the cost of drug addiction in the workplace, and it helps address substance abuse on a community and societal level.

To learn more about substance abuse and treatment in your area, [click here] for the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator as provided by SAMHSA.