Drug Abuse Costs Employers $81 Billion Per Year

Drug Abuse Costs Employers $81 Billion Per Year

By McCarton Ackerman 03/14/14

The staggering cost to companies with employees on drugs typically comes in the form of poor work performance and lack of productivity.

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New findings from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse have indicated that drug abuse costs employers a staggering $81 billion per year.

Approximately 70 percent of the 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs currently have a job, although the study didn’t indicate what percentage of those people used drugs or were still impaired by them while on the job. The research also found a correlation between drug abuse and frequent job hopping; those who had three or more jobs in the previous five years were twice as likely to be current or past users of illegal drugs as those who had two or less jobs in that same time.

The cost of drug abuse to employers typically comes in the form of poor work performance and lack of productivity, as well as frequently arriving late or calling in sick to work. In addition, businesses can also run the risk of having dangerous or deadly accidents occur while on the job. A study from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) found that between 10 to 20 percent of employees who died at work tested positive for drugs or alcohol.

With marijuana legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, many companies are struggling with how to address this new legal issue in the workplace. Ricardo Baca, the new marijuana editor for the Denver Post, noted that the newspapers added pot to a list of substances that employees are barred from using while on the job. (The paper’s marijuana critic, hired as a freelancer, would appear to be the exception to this rule.)

“How strange is it that you can legally smoke by state law and yet be fired by your employer for it?” said Baca. "That’s been a big issue here for four years."