Saturday, April 11, 2009

Costs of Workplace Drug & Alcohol Abuse

Every employer has a major stake in promoting employee access to substance abuse treatment. That’s because:
♦ 76 percent of people with drug or alcohol problems are employed.11

Drug and alcohol problems in the workplace cost American employers billions of dollars each year.1

Understanding the impact of substance abuse on the workplace—and the benefits of facilitating workers’ access to treatment—can help employers build a healthier workforce and a healthier bottom line.

Substance Abuse Imposes Significant Burdens on the Workplace

While some of the costs associated with employee drug or alcohol problems are easy to quantify, others are much harder to measure. All, however, are real.

♦ Healthcare costs are excessive. Healthcare costs for employees with alcohol problems are twice as high as those for other employees.2

♦ Risk increases. People who abuse drugs or alcohol are three and one-half times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident, resulting in increased workers’ compensation and disability claims.3

♦ Other workers suffer. Fourteen percent of employees in one survey said they had to re-do work within the preceding year because of a co-worker’s drinking.4

♦ Employed relatives pay. More than half of working family members of alcoholics report that their own ability to function at work and at home was negatively impacted by their family member's drinking. 8 Absenteeism increases. Alcoholism is estimated to cost 500 million lost workdays annually.9 Employment is less stable. Individuals who are current illicit drug users are more than twice as likely (12.3 percent) as those who are not (5.1 percent) to have changed employers three or more times in the past year.10


Xerox workers who participated in a wellness program and limited their alcohol consumption enabled the company to reduce its costs for both healthcare and health insurance over four years, achieving a five to one return on investment. 5

One company found that workers who used its Employee Assistance Program (EAP)* for help with mental health and substance use problems had fewer inpatient medical days than those who participated only in the company’s medical insurance plan. In addition, the company averaged $426,000 in savings each year on mental health and substance abuse treatment as a result of employees’ participation in the EAP. 6

Research has shown that savings from investing in substance abuse treatment exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.7

By promoting substance abuse education and access to treatment in the workplace, employers can realize many money-saving benefits:

Reduced absenteeism and job turnover;

Improved worker productivity and job performance;
Reduced healthcare costs
; and
Fewer workplace accidents and disability claims14
Drug-Free Workplace Solutions
Accurate Oral Fluid Technology

1 H. Harwood, D. Fountain, & G. Livermore, The Economic Costs of
Alcohol & Drug Abuse in the U.S. 1992. Rockville, MD: National Institute
on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,
1998. http://www. index.html .
(Accessed 5-9-08).
2 Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University, Substance
Abuse, The Nation's Number One Health Problem, Princeton, NJ: Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation, February 2001: 70.
3 US DHHS, SAMHSA, 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse,
Rockville, MD: US DHHS, 2000.
4 T.W. Mangione et al., “New Perspectives for Worksite Alcohol
Strategies: Results from a Corporate Drinking Study,” Boston, MA: JSI
Research and Training Institute, 1998.
5 S. Musich, D. Napier and D.W. Edington, “The Association of Health
Risks with Worker's Compensations Costs,” Journal of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine. 43, 6: 534-541 (June 2001).
6 T.C. Blum and P.M. Roman, “Cost-Effectiveness and Preventive Implications
of EAPs,” U.S. DHHS, SAMHSA, Pub. No. RP0907, 1995.
7 National Institute on Drug Abuse, Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment:
A Research-Based Guide, FAQ11. Bethesda, MD, 1999. http://www.nida. podat/PODAT6.html#FAQ11 . (Accessed 5-9-08).
8 Al-Anon Family Groups, Inc., “1999 Al-Anon/Alateen Membership
Survey and Al-Anon Membership Assessment Results: Final Report,”
March 2000.
9 U.S. DHHS, SAMHSA, Worker Drug Use and Workplace Policies and
Programs: Results from the 1994 and 1997 National Household Survey on Drug
Abuse. Rockville, MD: U. S. DHHS, 1999.
/NHSDA/A-11/TOC.htm . (Accessed 5-23-08)
10 S.L. Larson, J. Eyerman, M.S. Foster, and J.C. Gfroerer, Worker
Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs. Rockville, MD:
SAMHSA, OAS, 2007).
work.htm#6.1 . (Accessed 5-16-08).
11 SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and
Health 2005 and 2006: Table 5.8A. Rockville, MD, 2007. /2k6nsduh/tabs/Sect5peTabs1to13.pdf .
(Accessed 5-7-08).
12 Chart: Harwood, Fountain, & Livermore, 1998. Op Cit.
13 Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, analysis of 2001 National
Household Survey on Drug Abuse data from SAMHSA, 2002.
Washington, DC: DHHS.
14 SAMHSA, CSAT, “Substance Abuse in Brief: Effective Treatment
Saves Money,” Rockville, MD: SAMHSA CSAT, January, 1999.

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