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Addiction in the Workplace

Table of Content

Table of Content

Addiction is a disease with far-reaching ramifications. Not only does it impact the individual and their loved ones, but drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace exacts a high toll on employers and co-workers. The majority of people who struggle with a substance use disorder maintain some form of employment. That means, whether or not they realize it, many employers are impacted this disease.

While drug and alcohol addiction can cause chaos and disruption, that’s not the end of the story. Companies can address this issue head-on, and help individuals move forward into happier, healthier and more productive lives.

The Truth About Drug Use in the Workplace

Over 20 million people in America struggle with a substance use disorder. That means this disease impacts more people than cancer. Because of the negative stigma attached to addiction, most people hide their struggles and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy. However, the pervasive nature of this disease means it’s bound to negatively impact every area of their life — including work.

Many employers don’t realize drug and alcohol addictions may already be impacting their company. Here are some statistics which highlight this abuse in the workplace:

  • Untreated substance use disorders cost the U.S. economy anywhere from $2,600-13,000 per employee, resulting in a $400 billion loss to our economy each year.
  • This loss is a result of reduced work productivity, more absences and sick days, premature retirement, on-the-job injuries and workman’s compensation claims, illness and an increase in health insurance claims.
  • Employees with a substance use disorder miss on average 34% more days of work than other employees.
  • Industries that seem to be more susceptible to addiction include those involving shift work, nursing, the armed forces, hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture, retail and even emergency and healthcare workers.
  • The most commonly abused substances among employees include alcohol, opioids, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

How Substance Abuse Impacts the Workplace

When an employee struggles with a substance use disorder, it’s difficult for them to perform to their full potential on the job. They tend to have a variety of issues, such as:

  • More sick days and absenteeism
  • Less productivity
  • Higher injury rate
  • A negative perception of their job
  • Problems with supervisors
  • Less alert and accurate
  • More prone to mistakes
  • Lower quality work

Drug abuse in the workplace can have a far-reaching impact on profitability. Most employees struggling with addiction get laid off, meaning businesses must rehire and retrain someone to fill their position.

Substance abuse in the workplace also has an impact on fellow employees as they struggle to pick up the slack of the person abusing drugs or alcohol. This can lead to lower employee morale.

Warning Signs of Drug Use in the Workplace

While substance abuse in the workplace can sometimes be obvious, often it’s not. There are a few warning signs to look out for which can indicate someone is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol:

  • Drowsiness or falling asleep on the job
  • Increased mistakes
  • Takes an unusually long time to complete commonplace tasks
  • Repeated disappearance, multiple trips to the bathroom or other places to use drugs
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased tardiness or absenteeism
  • Missed deadlines or appointments
  • Apparent theft or the disappearance of valuable company property
  • Difficulty concentrating or recalling instructions
  • Sudden change in personal hygiene

Factors Contributing to Employee Substance Abuse

While substance abuse isn’t always work-related, there are some factors which can contribute to or even cause substance abuse among employees, including:

  • High levels of stress
  • Feeling isolated
  • Lack of work complexity or boredom
  • Limited control over work conditions
  • Sexual harassment
  • Culture of drinking or drug acceptance
  • Availability of drugs or alcohol
  • Lax or nonexistent workplace substance abuse policies

How Employers Can Help With Addiction in the Workplace

When companies address drug use in the workplace, it benefits your business and the person struggling with an addiction. The workplace can be a place for people to get the encouragement and resources they need to seek recovery. For example, companies can establish a comprehensive substance abuse policy and programs for education and assistance.

Offering help removes the stigma of addiction and encourages people to talk about this subject openly. It also improves their quality of life at home and work.

In the end, it doesn’t pay to ignore substance abuse in the workplace. In fact, most companies will see that reaching out and lending a helping hand improves their bottom line. While drug testing and giving time off for an employee to attend rehab may add to a business’s overhead, the costs are offset by:

  • Less absenteeism
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved work quality and decision making
  • Lower turnover rate

The best thing your business can do is connect employees who have addiction issues using treatment programs such as those found at Gateway. We have the science-based medical knowledge needed to address drug and alcohol addiction so employees can recover successfully. To find out more, contact us today.

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