Addiction in the Workplace

by | Jan 28, 2021 | 0 comments

Contrary to popular belief, most Americans struggling with a substance use disorder continue to hold down a job. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), more than 70 percent of those abusing illicit drugs in America are employed, as are most binge drinkers. The most common illicit drugs abused on the job are marijuana and cocaine.

Drug abuse and addiction cost American companies $81 billion every year.

As per U.S. Drug Test Centers, which is supported by SAMSHA, of the $81 billion dollars spent per year on drug abuse in the workplace, researchers estimate that it is spent on:

  • Absenteeism
  • Healthcare costs
  • Lost productivity

$25.5 billion dollars of this money is spent due to lost productivity and absenteeism at work due to drug abuse each year. Another $25 billion is lost due to healthcare costs per year. Also, an estimated 80% of drug users supported their drug use by stealing from their work.

Some people who abuse drugs or alcohol might qualify as “high-functioning,” or able to reach personal and professional success despite substance abuse. “High-functioning” does not mean healthy. Substance abuse and addiction cause damage in workplaces across the country.

Workplace Drug Abuse Effects

Substance abuse in the workplace can lead to lowered productivity, physical injuries and fatalities.

Approximately 16 percent of emergency room patients injured at work have alcohol in their system.

– National study on alcohol-related occupational injuries

The likelihood for workplace accidents skyrockets when employees are under the influence. Drinking on the job can also lead to aggravated assault and sexual battery charges.


Other side effects of addiction and drug abuse at work can include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms affecting job performance
  • Inability to focus or concentrate while under the influence
  • Needless risk-taking affecting company
  • Illegal sales of drugs to coworkers and other illicit activities

Those who abuse drugs are not the only ones affected in the workplace. Friends, family members and coworkers report mental stress at work as well.

Over 26 percent of employed adults have substance abuse or addiction in their family. Over 42 percent of these employees felt their productivity suffer as a result.


Signs of Workplace Drug Abuse and Addiction

Most addiction sufferers hide their drug use from employers and coworkers, but there are some signs that suggest a problem. Someone abusing drugs at work might behave differently from their colleagues in crucial ways. He or she may avoid coworkers and friends or irrationally blame them for personal mistakes. Other indicators someone is abusing drugs in the workplace may include:

  • Openly talking about money problems
  • A decline in personal appearance or hygiene
  • Complaints of failing relationships at home
  • Taking time off for vague illnesses or family problems

The first step toward recovery is recognizing telltale signs of addiction.

Workplace Drug Abuse and Addiction Treatment

Employed adults might be reluctant to take time off from work for an inpatient treatment program, but there are many options in battling a drug or alcohol addiction. Outpatient programs can help professionals recover while retaining some normalcy at work.

Many businesses also enroll in the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a national initiative of the NCADD. The EAP can point addiction sufferers and their loved ones toward community resources for emotional support and treatment. Twelve-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can also provide accountability during recovery, so former users can get and stay clean.

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