Alcohol Use and Alcoholism in the Workplace

Dr. Purushothaman
December 5, 2013

Alcohol consumption and alcoholism in the workplace is a common and dangerous problem in many different industries. These dangers are especially pronounced in the transportation, manufacturing and heavy industries because of the likelihood of an accident or injury due to an employee under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, alcohol use in the workplace causes significant economic losses every year - losses sustained by the employer, the employee, and the American public. In order to mitigate both loss of life and limb and economic loss, education, prevention and treatment programs play a critical role in keeping the workplace safe for everyone.

The biggest individual threat faced by people who drink while on the job or who work while intoxicated is injury or death. In fact, according to the BILYEU Group, "Nearly 40% of industrial fatalities and 47% of industrial injuries can be linked to alcohol consumption & alcoholism." (BILYEU Group Alcoholism in the Workplace Statistics) In effect this accounts for half of the industrial deaths and injuries in the United States alone, and clearly these figures do not reflect non-reported or under-reported incidents or figures such as the number of accidents, injuries or fatalities caused by alcohol consumption that were lied about or omitted by the offending party. And while these individual threats of life and limb are troublesome, they are all the more serious considering that one person's alcohol consumption or intoxication could lead to the injury or death of another innocent party.

The economic consequences of alcohol use and alcoholism in the workplace extend far beyond the cost of injuries and deaths. Missed time, improper management or oversight, lateness, improper or unfair hiring or firing practices and many other sources of alcohol in the workplace related problems can be costly. The United States Department of Labor has stated that: "In 1990, problems resulting from the use of alcohol and other drugs cost American businesses an estimated $81.6 billion in lost productivity due to premature death (37 billion) and illness (44 billion); 86% of these combined costs were attributed to drinking." (United States Department of Labor e-Laws, Drug Free Workplace Advisor) One can only presume that simply allowing for the cost of inflation alone means that these costs are much higher today than they were in 1990. However, effective workplace prevention programs are now well-established among many employers and help to reduce these costs.

The Drug Free Workplace Act was passed by the federal government in 1988 in an effort to enforce drug and alcohol free workplace environments among federal employees and contractors. Many corporations and organizations have since followed suit with their own, often even more stringent programs that not only set clear rules about the use of drugs and alcohol, but also provides help for those who are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem. Some of these programs have been hailed as being extremely effective. In fact, according to Safe Work, a branch of the Australian government, "The workplace is an ideal place to run effective drug and alcohol prevention programs because the peer support network in a workplace can be used to shape behavior. Workers have a better chance of recovery from drug and alcohol problems if they are still working." (Safe Work Guidelines for Drugs, Alcohol and the Workplace) This clearly demonstrates that these programs can work to reduce accidents and injuries while at the same time reducing overall economic impact by providing treatment and recovery options for victims of alcoholism and drug addiction.

If you find yourself increasingly feeling compelled to drink while at work for any reason, you should know that your life - and the life of those around you - could be at risk. Because your career and your future depend on it, pick up the phone and call a professional treatment facility right now for a completely free, confidential consultation any time of day or night. Many offer some of the most successful alcohol addiction recovery programs in the country, as well as inpatient treatment and day/night treatment options. Don't wait until it's too late - Take action. Take back your life.

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