One in Ten American Workers Is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

By May Wilkerson 06/23/15

Employee substance abuse costs American employers an estimated $81 billion per year.

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Drug and alcohol abuse are rife in the American workplace. Nearly one in 10 full-time workers in the U.S. has an illicit-drugs or alcohol disorder, according to a new government report. The findings are based on a survey of 111,500 adults with full-time jobs, who were surveyed between 2008 and 2012.

Substance abuse in the workplace could have a significant impact on productivity and economic gain. Employee drug abuse costs American employers an estimated $81 billion per year, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCAAD) reports. Of the 14.8 million people using illicit drugs in the U.S., an estimated 70% have jobs.

Workers who use drugs and alcohol are less productive than their colleagues, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI). They take three times as many sick days, are five times more likely to file worker's compensation claims, and are more likely to injure themselves or others. Workers’ productivity may also be affected by hangovers, withdrawal, and preoccupation with obtaining or using substances at work, said Will Wesch, director of admissions at Florida’s Novus Medical Detox Center.

Wesch recommends employers monitor employees for potential substance abuse and help them seek treatment if necessary.

“As different types of drugs can negatively affect job performance in different ways, it is important to recognize the side effects in order to understand what the employee might be going through, then the appropriate steps can be taken to help the individual overcome their addiction,” said Wesch. “The more awareness we can raise, the more likely we are to solve the problem.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.