Drugs at Work: What Employers Need to Know
Nearly 21 million Americans are living with substance use disorder, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. That's more than the total number of people living with cancer and more than the population of the state of New York.
Three-quarters of those struggling with alcohol, pain medication, marijuana and other substance use disorders are employed. Workers with substance use disorders may miss nearly 50% more work days than their peers – up to six weeks annually – and absenteeism leads to losses in productivity.
The White House Council of Economic Advisors further estimated the opioid crisis alone cost the U.S. economy $696 billion alone in 2018. Employers are becoming more aware of the problem. In a National Safety Council survey, 86% of employers were concerned that prescription opioid use was having a negative impact on their workplace, and 74% were concerned about heroin and fentanyl having a negative impact on their workplace.
NSC found health care costs for employees who misuse prescription opioid pain relievers are three times higher than for an average employee. The annual cost of untreated substance use disorder ranges from $2,600 per employee in agriculture to more than $13,000 per employee in information and communications.
Employers can take simple steps to protect themselves and their employees:
Employers might not know where to start when evaluating how to implement or update a drug free workplace program. See Implications for Employers for an overview.
Doctors are available to talk to other physicians about prescription drug misuse.