Drugs at Work: What Employers Need to Know
Nearly 21 million Americans are living with a substance use disorder (SUD), according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Three-quarters of those struggling with alcohol, opioids, cannabis and other substances are employed. Workers with SUDs 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 that the opioid crisis alone cost the U.S. economy $696 billion 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.
Workers in recovery have lower turnover rates and are less likely to miss work days, less likely to be hospitalized and have fewer doctor visits.
An NSC survey focused on opioids in the workplace found:
NSC and NORC found health care costs for employees who have a substance use disorder are almost double the costs of an average employee with no SUD. The annual cost of an untreated SUD ranges from an average of $8,255 to $14,000 per employee, depending on their industry and role.
Employers can take simple steps to protect themselves and their employees, such as:
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.