NEW YORK, NY – Workers with substance use disorders miss nearly 50% more days than their peers, and up to six weeks of work annually, according to analysis from the National Safety Council,
NORC at the University of Chicago and
Shatterproof. Despite the alarming new statistics, there is a persistent gap between employer perceptions of impact and the actual human and business costs of substance use. A new NSC
survey found only 39% of employers view prescription drug use as a threat to safety, and only 24% feel it is a problem, despite 71% saying they have experienced an issue.
In response to alarming data, and to help employers understand the need to act quickly, Shatterproof, NSC and NORC at the University of Chicago have created the
Substance Use Cost Calculator, which employers can use to quickly compute what the crisis means to their workforce.
Other findings from the analysis and survey include:
- Construction, entertainment, recreation and food service businesses have twice the national average number of employees with substance use disorders
- Industries dominated by women or older adults have a two-thirds lower rate of substance abuse
- Industries that have higher numbers of workers with alcohol use disorders also have more illicit drug, pain medication and marijuana use disorders
- Employers are most concerned about the costs of benefits (95%), the ability to hire qualified workers (93%) and the costs of worker's compensation (84%); drug misuse impacts all of those concerns, but prescription drug misuse and illegal drug sale or use were much lower concerns (67% and 61%)
- 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
- 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
- For some industries, employers could save more than $8,400 for each employee
- Healthcare costs for employees who misuse or abuse prescription drugs are
3 times the costs for an average employee
"Businesses that do not address the prescription drug crisis are like ostriches sticking their head in the sand," said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. "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."
Addictions, also known as substance use disorders, cost taxpayers more than $440 billion annually. Businesses are particularly affected, as substance use disorders lead to employee absenteeism, increased health care costs and lower productivity. 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, according to the analysis.
Getting an employee into treatment – which an employee is more likely to undergo if it is initiated by an employer[i] – can save an employer up to $2,607 per worker annually.
"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. "Knowing what I do about substance use disorder as well as about running a business as the former CEO of HEI hotel and resorts, I see the extraordinary impact this tool will have. It will save lives and save money. It will also help address the stigma that may keep employees from coming forward and seeking help when they need it."
"The most significant finding that is new and may be surprising to employers, is that workers who are in recovery, who have received treatment at some time in the past, but who are not currently abusing substances, are less likely to leave their employer, use less unscheduled leave and use fewer health care resources than co-workers with an untreated substance use disorder." said Eric Goplerud, Vice President, Public Health with NORC at the University of Chicago. "This finding stands up for every one of the 16 industry sectors. Supporting workers to treat substance use disorders is cost effective for employers."
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.
Developed through scientific analysis, the Substance Use Cost Calculator provides the individual costs of alcohol, prescription pain medication, marijuana and illicit drug use, and is broken down by industry and number of employees.
About the National Safety Council
Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public on the leading causes of unintentional death, with a focus on distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety, prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities. Safety+Health magazine, the Council's flagship publication, is a leading source of occupational safety and health information.
Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the devastation the disease of addiction causes families. Shatterproof works to end the stigma and foster a community of support for families. Shatterproof provides families with evidence-based resources to support prevention, treatment and recovery. Shatterproof advocates for changes in policy at the federal and state level and supports the development and implementation of evidence-based solutions for substance-use disorders.
NORC at the University of Chicago is an independent research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge.
Substance use, symptoms, and employment outcomes of persons with a workplace mandate for chemical dependency treatment. Psychiatric Services, 60(5), 646-654.