Drug Use and Addiction in the Workplace

Dr. Purushothaman
September 1, 2013

Drug use and addiction in the workplace is more common than most people think, and despite the fact that not everyone uses drugs or works while under the influence, everyone is placed at risk of injury or economic loss by those that do. Workplace drug use is responsible for mismanagement issues, accidents, injuries, fatalities, property damage, poor performance and lawsuits between insurers, workers and employers. As a result it's not just a matter of enforcing drug policy. Addiction and alcoholism and distinctly human conditions that can affect anyone, so treatment options must be as available or more so â€" than drug and alcohol prevention programs.

The prevalence of substance abuse and alcoholism in the workplace is surprising. According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse): "Nearly 19 percent of full-time employed 18 to 25 year olds and 13 percent of 26 to 34 year olds had used illicit drugs in the month prior to the 1988 [study]." In the case of the former group that's equivalent to 1 out of every 5 workers that used drugs. This is disturbing considering that a large number of drug users would never admit to using illegal substances â€" especially not in connection with their jobs. This means that the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse on the job is likely far higher than previous estimates.

Workplace injuries are often found to be related to the use of drugs or alcohol. In fact, the Workers Compensation program has strict rules in this regard. Whenever there is an injury or fatality involving a Worker's Compensation claim, the people involved in the accident must submit to a drug test. This is clear evidence that some employer's groups expect that accidents and injuries will often be caused by people who drink or use drugs on the job or arrive for work intoxicated in some way.

But in addition to the cost in human suffering from injuries and fatalities, there is also a significant economic impact. Drug use and addiction in the workplace are thought to be responsible for nearly $200 billion in expenses related to illnesses, injuries and deaths caused by drug or alcohol abuse. A great deal of this expense is for lost time, and according to many statistics, employees that use drugs are among the tardiest or absent group.

Performance issues related to drinking or substance abuse on the job is also a major expense in the form of time and resources for employers and their contractors. People who use drugs or drink excessively are thought to have more performance issues, poor decision making and management skills, and memory or attention issues that reduce efficiencies and create redundancies. As is the case with injuries and accidents that are not attributed to drug use or alcohol abuse as a result of deception, performance issues that cost companies money are often related to drugs, but this is not known because some users are successful at hiding their drug or alcohol problems.

Most people who work for an employer that has a health care plan can actually benefit from this by requesting treatment for addiction or alcoholism. And under these plans there may be worker protections in place to prevent those who reach out for help under certain circumstances from losing their jobs. If your career is on the line because you're struggling with an addiction,

Read Related Recent Articles