Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

Never? Maybe? Take a hard look at these numbers…

Approximately 68% of illegal drug users are employed either full-time or part-time, estimates the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

One out of every 10 people in the United States has an alcohol problem.

There’s a very good chance that someone where you work abuses alcohol or other drugs. It’s a problem that affects everyone. Workers who abuse alcohol and drugs are far less productive, miss more work days, are more likely to injure themselves or someone else, and file more worker’s compensation claims.

Employers can’t absorb all these costs — they’re passed on to employees through higher insurance premiums and reduced salaries or benefit packages, and to consumers through higher-priced products. Hidden costs are high — stress to others who continually fill in for absent or tardy co-workers, damage to equipment, drains on supervisory times, damage to the company’s public image.

Don’t enable a troubled employee to continue using alcohol or other drugs by ignoring the problem, lying or covering up, doing his or her job, or lending money.

Signs of abuse can include:

  • Frequent tardiness or absenteeism
  • Abrupt changes in mood or attitude
  • Frequent complaints of not feeling well
  • Poor relationships with co-workers
  • Uncharacteristic errors in judgment, poor concentration
  • Unusual flare-ups of temper
  • Deterioration of personal appearance and hygiene
  • Repeated or unusual accidents
  • Deteriorating job performance
  • Borrowing money from co-workers or frequently requesting advances on paychecks
  • Using a company credit card for personal business

Treatment Is Good Business

Treatment can be successful in helping people with most serious addiction problems. After treatment, recovering addicts are less likely to be involved in crime and more likely to be employed. Helping people stay off drugs lightens everyone’s tax burden by reducing expenses for drug-related law enforcement and health services.

Replacing employees is very expensive. Some estimates are more than $7,000 for a salaried worker, more than $10,000 for a mid-level employee, and more than $40,000 for a senior executive.

Adapted from How Drug Abuse Takes Profit Out of Business, Published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Take a Stand!

  • Examine your own alcohol and drug consumption habits. Are they hurting you, your family, or your co-workers? If you have a problem, get help.
  • Help establish a policy against drug use in your workplace, with firm consequences for violations. Include management training, employee education, and, if appropriate, drug testing.
  • If your company has an employee assistance program (EAP), make sure people know about it. If no EAP exists to direct people to treatment services, help develop one. Work with the security office, union, or employee association to set up an anonymous hotline for reporting drug trafficking on the job.