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Untreated Substance Abuse Problems Increase Business Costs

Identifying and treating substance abuse problems are good for business. Recent estimates suggest that health care expenditures surpassed two trillion dollars in 2007, more than three times the amount spent in 1990.  Drug and alcohol problems in the workplace cost American employers $197 billion each year. Under­standing the impact of substance abuse on the workplace—and the benefits of facilitating workers’ access to treatment—can help employers build a healthier workforce -- and a healthier bottom line.  

Substance Abuse Imposes Significant Burdens on the Workplace

While some of the costs associated with employee drug or alcohol problems are easy to quantify, others are much harder to measure. All, however, are real.

  • Risk increases. People who abuse drugs or alcohol are three and a half times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident, resulting in increased workers’ compen­sation and disability claims.
  • Other workers suffer. One in five workers reports being injured or put in danger on the job because of a coworker’s drinking, or having to work harder, redo work, or cover for a coworker as a result of a fellow employee’s drinking.
  • Employed relatives pay. More than half of working family members of alcoholics report that their own ability to function at work and at home was negatively impacted by their family member's drinking.
  • Absenteeism increases. Adult workers with a substance use disorder miss an average of 45% more days per year than employees without a substance use disorder.
  • Employment is less stable. Individuals who are current illicit drug users are more than twice as likely (9.3 percent) as those who are not (4.3 percent) to have changed employers three or more times in the past year.

By promoting substance abuse education and access to treatment in the workplace, employers can realize many money-saving benefits:

Reduced absenteeism and job turnover

  • Improved worker productivity and job performance
  • Reduced healthcare costs
  • Fewer workplace accidents and disability claims