Addiction – The Cost to Employers, and the Signs of Addiction

The current alcohol and drug addiction epidemic has not spared U.S. businesses. In fact, employee prescription drug abuse affects almost 70% of businesses in this country. In addition, drug abuse costs employers over $81 billion a year,  according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).
A huge impact

What are the results of this epidemic? How about: higher insurance costs, turnover rates, absenteeism and employee theft as well as lower worker productivity. But that’s not all – the work place is also made considerably more dangerous as injuries and fatalities increase:

  • More than 10% of workplace deaths involve alcohol.
  • Over 70% of those with substance abuse issues try to maintain at least some level of employment.
  • Almost half of these individuals admit that their work productivity suffers as a result of their substance abuse.
Weighing the cost
The costs of addiction go far beyond financial. Employee morale is adversely affected when coworkers suffer from substance abuse.  Plus, the suffering individual often exhibits abhorrent behaviors, including unprofessional behavior, poor work performance and all too frequent absences.
Impact on staff and company

Don’t forget your staff. They will begin to resent the suffering individual, which only makes things worse for the person suffering and for the staff and company in general.

In addition, there is considerable risk to the company, its brand and its reputation. The consequences can be significant, both legal and otherwise.

There are many steps a company can take to reduce substance abuse in the workplace, and to support employees with an addiction disorder.

Education is key

There are so many misconceptions and misinformation out there about addiction. Businesses can help by offering online internal educational courses and group seminars to address this issue. Senior leadership can also help by making it clear what the company policy is when it comes to addiction – that it is okay to come forward, no one should fear any sort of retribution.

With addiction, we are dealing with a chronic brain disease, not a moral issue or character flaw – and it needs to be addressed in this way, starting now, by all employers across the country.

Develop clear and firm company policies

Company policy should be very clear and cover a number of areas. Some examples include: 1) Prohibiting the use of alcohol on the premises in all circumstances, even celebrations, 2) Establishing and enforcing robust substance abuse policies, including a process for treatment and recovery, and 3) Offering comprehensive treatment programs, including hiring substance abuse advocates.

It has been proven that employers who actively initiate treatment discussions with suffering employees have greater success.

Welcome them back
Coworkers can also help by welcoming the recovering employee back to work and being supportive. Avoid gossip. Be careful not to ask for details. Respect the client’s right to privacy but let them know you are there to help if needed.
How to spot the addict?

How does person know if a coworker or themselves have become addicted to alcohol/drugs? This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some tell tale signs:

  • Trouble controlling the amount consumed.
  • Difficulty controlling the frequency of alcohol/drug use.
  • Planning work and activities around alcohol/drug use.
  • Thinking obsessively about using alcohol/drugs.
  • Physical cravings for alcohol/drugs.
Also . . .
  • An inability to focus without the use of alcohol/drugs.
  • Poor hygiene as the result of using alcohol/drugs.
  • Relationship difficulties as the result of using alcohol/drugs.
  • Failure to attend work on time, missing work or failing to accomplish required work duties.
  • Isolating to use alcohol/drugs alone.
  • Shaking in the morning after a night of drinking and drug use.

If you answer most of these questions affirmatively, there is a distinct possibility that you may have the disease of addiction.

Good news – addiction can be treated

If you or a coworker have alcohol/drug addiction, what can you do about it? The good news is that addiction can be treated, and employers can play a significant part in the process.

People in recovery often have lives that are vastly superior to their lives prior to addiction. There are many reasons for this. They tend not think of themselves as much and to think more of the needs of others.

A rewarding life lies ahead
For many, this is the secret to a very rewarding life. They are now helping people continuously. They are spending time helping those suffering from the very addiction they recovered from. They learn to deal with life on life’s terms, becoming very compassionate and caring members of society. As a result, they often return to work more able and productive than even before their addiction.

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