Substance abuse in the workplace, Part 1: How big a problem is it?

While certainly not pleasant to think about, the reality is that at this very moment, some of your employees may be high, drunk or hung over. And because of it, their work performance is suffering - as is your business.

According to the Department of Labor, 73 percent of all current drug users aged 18 and older are employed, which includes 6.7 million full-time workers and 1.6 million part-time workers. Construction workers (15.6%), sales personnel (11.4%), food preparation, wait staff and bartenders (11.2%), handlers, helpers and laborers (10.6%,) and machine operators and inspectors (10.5%) reported the highest rates of current illicit drug use.

The destructive, far-reaching effects of substance abuse in the workplace are well-documented. Substance abuse:

Lowers productivity –
Problems related to substance abuse cost businesses around $81 billion in lost productivity in one year.

Employees who abuse substances function at about 67% of their full potential.

Causes accidents and injuries -
Nearly 40 percent of industrial fatalities and 47 percent of injuries are associated with substance abuse.

Employees who use drugs are 3.6 times more likely to get in a workplace accident and 5 times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Increases absenteeism and turnover –
Approximately 500 million workdays are lost annually due to alcoholism.

Employees who use drugs are 2.2 times more likely to ask for time off or to leave early, 2.5 times more likely to report absences of eight days or more and 3 times more likely to be late to work.

Raises an employer’s medical costs -
Employees who use drugs cost their employers about twice as much in medical claims as non-drug-using employees.

In less than two weeks, October 19-25, employers across the country will be honoring Drug-Free Work Week. If you haven’t already, now is the time to implement a drug-free workplace initiative that will have a positive effect on your company’s safety and productivity. Check out our next post to learn more about what you can do to keep your employees and your workplace “clean.”

The DOL encourages all employers to address workplace substance abuse because:

“Taking steps to raise awareness among employees about the impact of substance
use on workplace performance, and offering the appropriate resources and/or
assistance to employees in need, will not only improve worker safety and
health, but also increase workplace productivity and market competitiveness.”


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