Abuse of alcohol and drugs on the job

by | May 19, 2020 | 0 comments

Alcohol and drug abuse by employees cause many expensive problems for business and ranging from lost productivity, injuries, and an increase in health insurance claims.The loss to companies in the United States due to alcohol and drug-related abuse by employees totals $100 billion a year, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI).These staggering numbers do not include the cost of diverting company resources, that could be used for other purposes, toward addressing substance abuse issues. Nor does it include the “pain and suffering” aspects, which cannot be measured in economic terms. Drinking and drugging among U.S. workers create costly medical, social, and other problems that affect both employees and employers.Substance abuse among employees can threaten public safety, impair job performance and threaten their own safety.In addition to deaths and accidents, absenteeism and loss of production, other problems that alcohol and drug abuse can cause on the job include:

  • Tardiness/sleeping on the job
  • Hangover or withdrawal affecting job performance
  • Poor decision making
  • Theft
  • Increased likelihood of having trouble with co-workers/supervisors or tasks
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work, interfering with attention and concentration
  • Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs to other employees
  • Higher turnover
  • Disciplinary procedures

Costs of Substance Abuse

However, costs to businesses can be measured at the expense of absenteeism, injuries, health insurance claims, loss of productivity, employee morale, theft, and fatalities.

The Impact of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

  • Are far less productive.
  • Use three times as many sick days.
  • Are more likely to injure themselves or someone else.
  • Are five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim.

One survey found that nine percent of heavy drinkers and 10 percent of drug users had missed work because of a hangover, six percent had gone to work high or drunk in the past year, and 11 percent of heavy drinkers and 18 percent of drug users had skipped work in the past month.

Factors Contributing to Employee Substance Abuse

Research has shown that several factors can contribute to problem drinking and drugging in the workplace. Factors that can encourage or discourage workplace substance abuse include:

  • Workplace culture and acceptance of drinking/drugging4
  • Workplace alienation5
  • Availability of alcohol and drugs
  • Existence and enforcement of workplace substance abuse policies

Studies have found that male-dominated occupations create heavy drinking cultures in which employees drink to build solidarity and show conformity. Therefore, these occupations have higher rates of alcohol- and drug-related problems.

Any industry or organization can be affected by workplace alcoholism, but research shows it is prevalent in these industries: food service,8 construction, mining and drilling,9 excavation, installation, maintenance, and repair.


The level of supervision on the job can affect drinking and drugging at work rates. A study of evening shift workers, when supervision was reduced, found that employees were more likely to drink at work than highly supervised shifts.

Prevention Works

When the issue of workplace substance abuse is addressed by establishing comprehensive programs, it is a “win-win” situation for both employers and employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

  • 91 percent decrease in absenteeism
  • 88 percent decrease in problems with supervisors
  • 93 percent decrease in mistakes in work
  • 97 percent decrease in on-the-job injuries.

Companies and employers, large and small, can adopt a workplace substance abuse policy that will reduce the loss of productivity and provide a safer work environment for all.



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