10 Ways Substance Misuse Affects Workplaces

More than 70 percent of U.S. employers are feeling the direct impact of prescription drug misuse in their workplaces, according to a recent survey by the National Safety Council.

The survey also found that although 71 percent of employers agree that prescription drug misuse is a disease that requires treatment, only 39 percent of employers view prescription drug use as a threat to safety, only 24 percent feel it is a problem and 65 percent feel it is a justifiable reason to fire an employee.

The survey, which included 501 interviews with human resources professionals at a mix of U.S. businesses with 50 or more employees, exposed a gap between employer perceptions of impact and the actual human and business costs of substance use, according to an analysis by the nonprofit National Safety Council, the NORC research institution at the University of Chicago, and the nonprofit advocacy and services organization Shatterproof.

Substance use disorders or addictions cost taxpayers more than $440 billion annually, according to the report, and businesses are particularly affected as substance use disorders lead to employee absenteeism, increased health care costs and lower productivity. Getting an employee into treatment – which the research says an employee is more likely to undergo if the idea is initiated by an employer – can save an employer up to $2,607 per worker annually.

10 More Facts

Here are 10 other facts about prescription drug misuse and the impact in the workplace derived from the analysis:

  1. Workers with substance use disorders miss nearly 50 percent more days than their peers, and up to 6 weeks of work annually
  2. Construction, entertainment, recreation and food service businesses have twice the national average number of employees with substance use disorders
  3. Industries dominated by women or older adults have a two-thirds lower rate of substance abuse
  4. Industries that have higher numbers of workers with alcohol use disorders also have more illicit drug, pain medication and marijuana use disorders
  5. Employers are most concerned about the costs of benefits (95 percent), the ability to hire qualified workers (93 percent) and the costs of worker’s compensation (84 percent). Drug misuse impacts all of those concerns, but prescription drug misuse and illegal drug sale or use were much lower concerns (67 percent and 61 percent).
  6. The cost of untreated substance use disorder ranges from $2,600 per employee in agriculture to more than $13,000 per employee in the information and communications sector
  7. Encouragingly, workers in recovery have lower turnover rates and are less likely to miss work days, less likely to be hospitalized and have fewer doctors visits
  8. For some industries, employers could save more than $8,400 for each employee by providing assistance
  9. Healthcare costs for employees who misuse or abuse prescription drugs are 3 times the costs for an average employee
  10. Seventy-five percent of adults struggling with a substance use disorder are in the workforce, although adults with substance use disorders are about twice as likely to be unemployed

“This is a wakeup call for businesses. When it comes to addiction’s cost in the workplace, the numbers are staggering,” said Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof, and the formerCEO of HEI hotel and resorts.

To help employers understand the need to have a program in place to address prescription drugs in the workplace, Shatterproof, NSC and NORC have created the Substance Use Cost Calculator, which employers can use to quickly compute what the crisis means to their workforce.

The Substance Use Cost Calculator allows businesses to input basic statistics about their workforce such as industry, location and number of employees. The results show estimated prevalence of substance use disorders among employees and dependents, associated costs and potential savings if employees and their family members treat substance use disorders. It provides the individual costs of alcohol, prescription pain medication, marijuana and illicit drug use, and is broken down by industry and number of employees.

“Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “The problem exists and doing nothing will harm your employees and your business. As the tool shows, the cost of inaction is far too great.”

Source: National Safety Council