A Workforce Drain: The Truth About Drug Abuse on the Job

This article is by Kerry Nenn and published by rehabs.com


If one family member uses drugs, their behavior shakes the entire family tree. The same is true for businesses.

Substance abuse doesn’t just affect the employees who use them. They impact the entire workforce and overall productivity of the company.

Substance Abuse in the Workplace

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that drug abuse costs employers $81 billion each year. Truth be told, however, the effects are more than merely financial.

Drugs drain the workplace in five main areas:


  • #1 Absenteeism: According to the National Safety Council, employees who abuse prescription drugs are two to five times more likely to take unexcused absences or be late for work. When employees don’t show up, production falls, deadlines aren’t met, and other workers are forced to try to pick up the slack.
  • #2 Presenteeism: Sometimes employees show up for work, but they’re in no condition to be productive. The act of showing up for work when you’re sick is known as presenteeism. Employees who struggle with substance abuse may come to work hungover, high, or experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Each of these states make an employee unable to fully perform his or her duties and could place others in danger due to their poor mental and physical state.
  • #3 Accidents: The NCADD reported that 35 percent of ER visits for work-related injuries are made by at-risk drinkers. Plus, those with alcohol problems are nearly three times more likely to experience an injury on the job, compared to those without drinking problems.
  • #4 Relationships: Substance abuse in the workplace puts a heavy strain on employee interactions. Relationships suffer, which makes work more difficult. Settings that require teamwork are difficult for supervisors to manage and tension between employees runs high.
  • #5 Morale: As relationships suffer, injuries add up, workloads increase, and morale plummets. Substance abuse can result in a low morale among the entire company’s workforce. This, in turn, has a major negative impact on productivity.

Can Employers Manage Drug-Related Problems at Work?

Based on National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence findings, 70 percent of Americans who use illegal drugs are employed. Clearly, this is a major problem in the workforce that employers must manage.

With millions of dollars going down the substance abuse drain every year, what can companies do to stop the bleeding? Here are a few suggestions:


  • Employee Assistance Programs: These programs provide practical help for employees struggling with substance abuse. Assistance typically includes short-term counseling, assessment, and referrals. With assistance programs in place, workers can receive services – confidentially and affordably – to get their lives back on track.
  • Drug-Free Workplace Policies: Written substance abuse policies help establish boundaries and expectations for employees. With policies in place, employees understand ahead of time what will happen once they come forward and ask for help.
  • Health Benefits: Employers may consider offering healthcare benefits that cover substance abuse disorders, including counseling. When treatment is accessible and affordable, employees are much more likely to seek help.
  • Education: To reduce stigma and provide resources for those struggling with addiction, employers can educate workers about the disease. Company wellness programs or other training seminars can help employees gain a better understanding of the risks and how to cope with the issue of substance abuse.

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