What an employer needs to know about Drugs in the Workplace

Courtesy of: Department of Health and Human Services   Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration


Substance abuse is a widespread problem in our society. An estimated 14.8
million Americans are current illicit drug users.1 The Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration reported that 77 percent of illicit drug
users in the United States are employed. That’s 9.4 million people. The chances
are good that your organization employs one of these workers.

Who is using drugs at work?

A survey by the federal government showed full-time employees who admitted to
being current illicit drug users tend to be:

  • between the ages of 18 and 25
  • less educated
  • male
  • divorced or never married
  • white
  • low paid2

Industries with the highest rates of illicit drug use

  • food preparation workers
  • waiters, waitresses, and bartenders
  • other service occupation workers
  • construction workers
  • workers in transportation and material moving3

How does substance abuse impact the workplace?

Employees who abuse alcohol and other drugs bring their problems with them to
work.  

Substance abuse lowers productivity.  

  • Problems related to alcohol and drug abuse cost American businesses roughly $81
    billion in lost productivity in just one year.4
  • Studies have shown that substance-abusing employees function at about 67% of
    their capacity.5

Substance abuse causes accidents and injuries.  

  • Up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities and 47 percent of industrial injuries
    can be linked to alcohol use and alcoholism.6 
  • Employees who use drugs are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace
    accident and 5 times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.7

Substance abuse increases absenteeism and turnover.  

  • An estimated 500 million workdays are lost annually due to alcoholism.8
  • Employees who use drugs are 2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal or
    time off, 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more, and 3
    times more likely to be late for work.9
  • Illicit drug users are more than twice as likely than those who do not use
    drugs to have changed employers three or more times in the past year.10

Substance abuse increases an employer’s medical costs.  

  • Employees who use drugs cost their employers about twice as much in medical
    claims as do non-drug-using employees.11

What can your organization do to decrease the impact of substance abuse?  

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