The Dangers of Substance Use in the Workplace

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By: SUPE Editorial Team

The loss to companies in the United States due to drug and alcohol use by employees totals $100 billion a year, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. There are additional costs associated with diverting company resources toward addressing substance use and addiction.

Drug and alcohol use among the American workforce creates costly medical, social, and other problems impacting employers and employees. It also threatens public safety, job performance, and individual safety.

The Problems Created by Substance Use in the Workplace

The apparent problems created by substance use in the workplace are deaths, accidents, absenteeism, and loss of production.

Other problems include some of the following:

  • Hangovers and withdrawal symptoms affect job performance.
  • Tardiness and sleeping on the job.
  • Poor decision-making, theft, and loss of efficiency.
  • Low morale of co-workers.
  • Increased likelihood of creating problems with co-workers or supervisors.
  • Being preoccupied with obtaining and using substances while at work.
  • Higher employee turnover rates.
  • More money is being spent training new employees.

What Is the Cost?

The cost to any business is measured at the expense of absenteeism, health insurance claims, injuries, loss of productivity, theft, morale, accidents, and deaths. Alcohol and drug users are far less productive, use three times as many sick days, are more likely to injure themselves and others, and are five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim.

Unfortunately, most business leaders remain largely in the dark about how substance use impacts their companies. Without proper intervention, prevention, and education, billions of dollars are lost nationally.

What Contributes to Alcohol and Drug Misuse in the Workplace?

Many studies have shown that common factors contribute to workplace alcohol and drug misuse. Some of the factors include:

Icon to represent workplace culture and acceptance of misuse of alcohol and drugs.

Workplace culture and acceptance of misuse of alcohol and drugs.

Icon used to represent workplace alienation, which can take many different forms.

Workplace alienation, which can take many different forms.

Icon used to represent existence and/or enforcement of workplace substance abuse policies.

Existence and/or enforcement of workplace substance use policies.

Icon used to represent a lack of supervision in some jobs increases the risk of drinking and drug consumption.

A lack of supervision in some jobs increases the risk of drinking and drug consumption.

Prevention and Education Works

Employee-based prevention and education programs are proven to work and help keep a culture that helps one another and prevents workplace substance use. Additionally, employers can continue to remain objective, document situations, and follow internal policies. Drug testing should be used when appropriate, as some organizations have formal drug testing policies.

Organizations should also create new policies if necessary and take action in a timely manner if substance use is suspected. Once substance use has been discovered, it is wise to consider options before taking action.

Test Your Knowledge

Dangers of Substance Use in the Workplace

Which of the following is a problem created by substance use in the workplace?

A lack of supervision in some jobs increases the risk of drinking.

Which of the following contributes to workplace drug use?

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