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HomeHealthOffice WellbeingNational health the hidden cost of substance abuse in the workplace

National health the hidden cost of substance abuse in the workplace

Contrary to what most people think, the majority of people who have alcohol or drug abuse problems are employed. Did you also know that businesses lose around £8 billion (10% of annual payroll) annually to substance abuse?

Partners and family members also feel the negative impact of substance abuse by a loved one, as they often have to support the addict through the difficult repercussions of performance related problems at work. You can see a breakdown of this on this fantastic graphic from  Addiction Helper who are a well renowned place to get help and who run the United Kingdom’s leading Addiction resource site.

The research suggests that the workplaces and occupations that are most prone to the problems related to substance abuse are in law enforcement, the armed forces, construction, hospitality, sales and management, and artistic industries like actors, musicians and writers.

Estimates suggest that substance abuse is responsible for 60% of poor performance and 40% of industrial accidents at work. And there are many other hidden costs linked with substance abuse in the workplace…

  • Declined productivity
  • Absenteeism and sickness
  • Presenteeism (A syndrome in which the individual continues to work overtime or put in longer shifts that required, simply out of fear of losing their job).
  • Improper or inappropriate behaviour that lowers employee morale
  • Injuries and accidents, including fatal accidents.

Managers and HR staff are uniquely positioned to tackle substance abuse in the workplace. Colleagues can also help. The fact that employees spend the most part of their day at work puts managers and work colleagues on the frontline of prevention as they are uniquely positioned to be more able to spot and manage a substance abuse problem.

It is important that employers are able to quickly spot a substance abuse problem, understand their legal responsibilities and how they can stop or significantly minimize the risks to the abuser and the other staff.

If, as an employer, you decide to adopt drug screening as part of your workplace’s drug policy, make sure your primary aim is to support the affected employees rather than punish them. The policy should clearly state that drug dealing or possession will be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

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