3 Reasons Why Employers Should Be Concerned About Workforce Substance Abuse

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Employers have a lot to worry about these days. COVID safety protocols, the increasingly difficult task of hiring and retaining employees, and maintaining a diverse workforce are among current concerns. However, substance abuse among your workforce should not be discounted. Drug and alcohol addiction costs U.S. organizations billions of dollars per year, which is inclusive of safety and productivity issues.

Let’s look at an employee who is abusing drugs. This individual may show side effects of their drug abuse at work, including:

  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Needless risk-taking, which can lead to accidents
  • Lack of interest that can affect job performance
  • Increased time off, tardiness, unexplained absences
  • Aggressive behavior and/or mood swings at work

“Drug abuse at work can be detrimental to a company’s day-to-day operations, as well as their revenue” says Dr. Tom Simo, Chief Medical Officer at HireRight. “The side effects of drug abuse, even if not used in the workplace, can harm a company and put other employees at risk”.

Here, we will address three reasons why employers should be concerned about workforce substance abuse, and why a strong drug testing program can help mitigate risk and improve performance for your company.

Costs

The overhead to an organization is the number one factor to consider in employee substance abuse. Drug abuse and addiction costs U.S. companies a whopping $81 billion per year! This includes accidents, extra healthcare costs, employees missing work, and productivity. For companies large or small, these costs add up and affect revenue.

Companies that are dealing with drug abuse issues among their workforce spend up to $25.5 billion due to lower productivity, and absenteeism. Healthcare costs can also increase; $25 billion annually is spent on increased healthcare costs among drug users. Another factor to consider is loss of inventory or money at the place of business. An estimated 80% of drug users support their habit by stealing from their place of work

Productivity

It’s no secret that employee productivity plays a key role in the profitability of a company. An organization that has high levels of productivity can expect to generate higher profits and revenue. However, if your organization is experiencing drug abuse issues in the workplace, both productivity and employee engagement are likely to decline.

Absenteeism is a huge factor in productivity levels. If you do not have a full workforce, other employees need to make up the difference in productivity leading to a lag in overall organizational effectiveness. Employees who use drugs are 2.2 times more likely to request to leave early or time off. They are 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more, and three times more likely to be late to work.

Side effects of drug abuse at work include lack of interest, and the inability to concentrate or focus. Studies have shown that a substance user will function at about 67% of their capacity in the workplace. This puts a strain on other employees, as well as the company, to make up for this reduced productivity.

Safety

Safety is an issue that is important to all employers. It is not only a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for employees, but an unsafe workplace can create huge cost issues for an organization. For those reasons, it is imperative that an organization is focused on maintaining a safe workspace for employees.

Employees who take drugs are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in an accident in the workplace, and are five times more likely to file a workers compensation claim. This can have huge financial repercussions for an organization.  It is estimated that between 38% to 50% of all workers’ compensation claims are related to drug and/or alcohol use on the job.


Many employers see drug testing as an expense, rather than an investment. However, creating a solid drug testing program can help organizations provide a safe workspace, and maintain productivity levels across the board. These programs can provide employers with a solid return on investment, which will likely far outweigh the upfront costs associated with drug testing.

For more information on building an effective drug testing program, download our complimentary eBook today.

HireRight

HireRight

HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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