The Effects of Workplace Substance Abuse
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As a result of media coverage and personal experiences, many people understand that abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs are persistent issues in society. What some may not fully understand is how this abuse affects the workplace and how the workplace may affect substance abuse.

The Damaging Impact of Workplace Substance Abuse

Workplace substance abuse has a far-reaching impact on the profitability of a business. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), 70 percent of Americans that abuse illegal drugs are employed. The same applies for binge and heavy alcohol drinkers.1 Many job duties involve being alert and accurate, having quick reflexes and being efficient in completing tasks. When a person is impaired, it can lead to accidents, inefficiency and reduced productivity. Absenteeism due to recovering from the effects of substance abuse and related illnesses can also be costly to businesses. Drug abuse in the workplace cost employers about $81 billion annually.2

Employers and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse effects that affect employers include:3

  • Employees being late or sleeping on the job
  • Theft
  • Poor decision making
  • Problems performing duties
  • Decreased efficiency
  • Low morale of coworkers
  • High rate of turnover and increased training costs for new employees
  • Costs of disciplinary procedures and drug testing programs

Employees and Substance Abuse

Job-related stress may encourage some to turn to substances to cope. These include:

  • High stress
  • Low job satisfaction
  • Long hours
  • Irregular shifts
  • Fatigue
  • Isolation
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Periods of inactivity and boredom
  • Remote, irregular or abusive supervision

Since 70 percent of drug users are employed, the workplace is a valuable opportunity to reach out with resources to encourage people to get into recovery. Employers and employees can meet and agree on guidelines and programs that would benefit both sides.

Programs to Combat Workplace Substance Abuse

One tool that can have a significant impact on workplace substance abuse is an employee assistance program (EAP). These types of programs offer counseling and assistance in connecting employees who have abuse issues with treatment programs. Also, encouraging people in recovery to work helps them maintain their sober lives. These programs may also provide the following benefits:

  • Improve job performance
  • Decrease tardiness
  • Improve efficiency
  • Improve morale

For these programs to be effective, drug testing, trained staff, and workplace monitoring should be in place to implement this type of treatment. While it may add to overhead for the business, the benefits of increased productivity, less absenteeism, improved decision-making and lower turnover may offset the cost of an EAP.

Eligible employees who choose to take advantage of an EAP may also utilize FMLA leave to enroll in rehab. This provides adequate time for long-term residential care if it’s needed, without jeopardizing the employee’s employment.

Nova maintains relationships with several different companies to provide EAPs for employees who have substance abuse problems. With a full continuum of care spanning detox, rehab, sober living, personal monitoring, and aftercare, Nova provides the long-term treatment clients need to regain their health and become an active and contributing member of the workforce. This is not only beneficial for the employee, but also for the employer.

Nova will also work with the EAP representative to make sure the client has an adjusted work schedule that encompasses their addiction treatment and their job duties at work. Once employees have completed rehab, many EAPs also provide assistance re-integrating into the workplace.

Changing Society Through the Workplace

An important first step in addressing the problem of substance abuse in the workplace is the awareness that it is a common problem not just shared by families and friends, but one that also extends into employers’ and employees’ relationships.

Once acknowledged, the resources and contacts being made between people who have the means and motivation to offer recovery aid—employers—to those who need treatment—employees—can have a profound positive impact on society at large. Both employers and employees will benefit from these changes, improving lives as well as profits.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and it is taking a toll on your life at work and at home, there has never been a better time to get help. Nova Recovery Center provides a long-term drug and alcohol rehab program that is specifically designed to help you achieve lifelong recovery. You’ve lived under the grip of addiction for long enough. Reclaim your life and get started with your rehab program today.

*This article was updated on 3/8/18.