The Dangers of Substance Abuse in the Workplace
Alcohol and drug use among employees and their family members can be an expensive and hazardous problem for business and industry. Employers might struggle with issues ranging from lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities and theft, to an increase in health care, legal liabilities and workers' compensation costs.
Additional problem areas can include:
- Tardiness/sleeping on the job
- After-effects of substance use (hangover, withdrawal) affecting job performance
- Poor decision making
- Lower morale of co-workers
- Increased likelihood of having trouble with co-workers/supervisors or tasks
- Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs to other employees
- Higher turnover
In addition, family members living with someone's alcoholism or drug use may also suffer significant job performance related problems -- including absenteeism, lack of focus, increased health-related problems and increased use of drugs or alcohol as self-medication.
Workers with alcohol or drug problems are more likely than workers without drinking problems to have injury-related absences. And there have been some surveys that show 24% of workers report drinking during the workday at least once in the past year. Marijuana is the most commonly used and abused illegal drug by employees, followed by cocaine, with prescription drug use steadily increasing.
Employers can establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to address alcohol and drug problems in the workplace. EAPs deal with all kinds of problems and provide counseling and assessment of employees with alcohol or drug abuse problems. This service is confidential and programs are staffed by professional counselors who can help employees and their families with substance abuse recovery.
Employers should also address substance use and abuse in their employee population by implementing drug-free workplace and other written substance abuse policies and offering health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance use disorders. Research has demonstrated that alcohol and drug treatment pays for itself in reduced healthcare costs that begin as soon as people begin recovery.