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Facts About the Impact of Substance Use Disorders

Seventy-seven percent of individuals with a substance use disorders (abuse or dependence) are employed. In fact, nearly 14 million people or 9.2 percent of full-time or part-time workers ages 18 and above use alcohol or drugs ways that put them at high risk for substance-related health problems and reduces their productivity on the job.

Just look at the facts. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, employees with substance use disorders:

  • say they call in sick or skip work almost fifty percent more often than those who don't have substance use problems
  • seek emergency room attention 25 percent more often than the rest of the population
  • are over eleven times more likely to report driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs than are other employees

Who are people with substance problems? More often than not, they're young and male, but substance-related problems affect people of all ages and women as well as men. Workplaces that actively discourage employees from heavy drinking and substance use experience fewer substance-related problems. Excess alcohol and drug use at night or on weekends often means that employees call in sick, arrive late, leave early or fall asleep on the job. If they work in safety-sensitive positions, impaired job performance due to hangovers can endanger their own lives or those of their colleagues and the public.

Excess alcohol and drug use also affects employee health. It greatly increases the chances of unintentional injury—both on and off the job. Over time, excess drinking and drug use can contribute to many serious medical problems including cardiovascular problems, neurological impairments, liver disease, stroke and cancer. In fact, according to government estimates, alcohol and drug problems add $61 billion (or approximately $200 for every man, woman and child in the United States) to the nation's health care bill. American business absorbs much of this cost in the higher premiums it pays for employer-based health insurance as a result of unidentified and untreated alcohol and drug problems.

By identifying and addressing substance abuse early, employers can realize savings, better manage their own risk and build a healthy, productive workforce.