7 Ways Addiction is Hurting American Businesses

labor worker sleeping on the job

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 | By Cooper Samp

With one in eight Americans meeting the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder and a worsening opioid crisis, addiction has become an ever increasingly large challenge in the American workforce. 70% of people struggling with addictions are actually employed either full or part-time

More often than not, people who struggle with addictions often suffer in silence for fear of losing their jobs or the shame that comes with having a disorder.

Employers may not realize the extent of their worker’s struggles, but whether they realize it or not, they often bear the brunt of the costs of addiction due to more turnover and increased absenteeism, higher health care costs, among many other things. Fortunately for employers, they have tools at their disposal to help their workers and family members get effective and confidential help.

Especially during the early stages of the disease, addictions often go unnoticed. Without the proper management and help of an employee’s substance use disorder, businesses can end up paying unnecessary costs. Here are eight ways untreated addition hurts every business, no matter the location, industry, or size.

Absenteeism

Employees with an addiction miss nearly 50% more days. Workers who abuse opioids (painkillers) are 3 times more likely to be late for work and miss 29 days annually on average

Loss of work productivity

The nature of addiction often impacts the daily lives of those affected; meaning the physical and psychological symptoms associated can distract and limit their capacity at work. Also, those associated with a user – spouses, siblings, parents – can be drastically hindered for extended periods of time.

Healthcare

Hospital emergency visits and overall healthcare uses are increased for individuals suffering from substance use disorders. For instance, those suffering from prescription opioid addictions are twice as likely to be hospitalized within the past year and overall healthcare costs are three times greater than the average employee.

Turnover

Individuals with addictions suffer from a decrease in work performance eventually leading to termination. The time and energy spent on finding new employees can be vast. Some studies show that it costs an average of six to nine months’ salary every time a business replaces a salaried employee.

Safety

Workplace mishaps like injuries, accidents and even fatalities are more common in environments where addiction is present. This is often due to the fact that people with addictions are more susceptible to poor judgment and inattention.

Risk

Untreated addiction leads to increased liability which can be one the the largest proponents to a workplace’s costs. Inappropriate behavior or operating machinery under the influence are some of the ways an employee can put a company at risk.

Culture conflict

When other employees are aware of another employee’s addiction, it opens the door to humiliation and friction. Even progressive companies with wellness policies often fail to integrate a supportive culture about substance use disorders. A supportive culture must include a commitment to breaking the stigma.


To minimize costs associated with employee addictions, a business should strive to build a supportive company culture that breaks the stigma around addiction and creates a supportive environment for people with substance use disorders.

Businesses will find they will truly save money in the long run by helping their fellow employee obtain the help they need. Often all that is required is a medical leave for 3 months to effectively detox from the substance and attend treatment to receive medication, group therapy and counseling. Once returned to work, employees in recovery often are seen to be assets to the company (especially the companies that helped them recovery) as research has shown they miss the fewest days of any demographic including the general workforce.

Learn more about how your business can help an employee attend treatment while working.

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