Getting high on the

Companies pay the price for employee substance abuse

When you picture a drug abuser, do you imagine someone in a suit carrying a briefcase? If not, then perhaps you should. Whether it be alcohol, marijuana or cocaine, employee substance abuse costs businesses an estimated $75-$100 billion every year in lost productivity, and higher healthcare and workers’ compensation costs.

Consider these sobering facts: 73% of all illegal drug users are employed, and 10% of the american workforce consumers at least five glasses of alcohol by the end of the workday. However, the most obvious effects of employee substance abuse on a company’s bottom line are absenteeism and lower productivity and employee morale.

Although 1997 findings were not available at press time, a 1994 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in Washington, D.C., found that while substance abuse is more prevalent among younger workers and white males, it cuts across all lines–racial, gender and employment status. On a national level, the economic costs of alcohol and substance abuse rose to $276.3 billion in 1995, from $245.7 billion in 1992.

Whether it be on a personal, professional or national level, the cost of getting high is just — well — too high.

PERCENTAGE OF WORKERS, AGES 18-49 YEARS, REPORTING DRUG ALCOHOL USE
OCCUPATION CATEGORY

CURRENT ILLICIT
DRUG USE

HEAVY
ALCOHOL USE

CONSTRUCTION

15.6%

17.6%

EXECUTIVE, ADMINISTRATION & MANAGERIAL

5.5

6.5

FOOD PREPARATION, WAITSTAFF & BARTENDERS

11.2

12.2

HANDLERS, HELPERS & LABORERS

10.6

15.7

MACHINE OPERATORS & INSPECTORS

10.5

13.5

PROFESSIONAL SPECIALTY

5.1

4.3

SALES

1.4

8.3

TECHNICIANS & RELATED SUPPORT

5.5

6.2

*Five or more drinks on five or more occasions in the previous 30 daysSource: National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, Office of Applied Studies, SAMHSA, Washington, D.C., 1994
THE EFFECTS OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE ON WORKER PRODUCTIVITY
 

ALCOHOL
USE

ILLICIT
DRUG USE

WORKED FOR THREE OR MORE EMPLOYERS IN THE PAST YEAR

27.1%

32.1%

VOLUNTARILY LEFT AN EMPLOYER IN THE PAST YEAR

21.7

25.8

MISSED TWO OR MORE DAYS OF WORK IN THE PAST MONTH DUE TO ILLNESS OR INJURY

10.3

11.6

INVOLVED IN A WORKPLACE ACCIDENT IN THE LAST YEAR

7.6

7.5

Source: An Analysis of Worker Drug Use and Workplace Policies and Programs, Office of Applied Studies, SAMHSA, Washington, D.C., 1994
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