The Cost of Drug Abuse in the Workplace

According to the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), drug abuse in the United States costs employers approximately 81 billion dollars in any given year. 14.8 million Americans use illegal drugs. 70% of them are employed.

Workers who “job hop,” i.e. those who have had three or more jobs within five years, are twice as likely to use illegal drugs as people who have had fewer jobs.

Those are staggering figures. Obviously, workplace drug abuse is endemic and costly. So, what are the indications of drug problems in the workplace?

Performance Issues

If a worker displays:

  • Lack of focus and difficulty concentrating
  • Inconsistent quality of work
  • Low or erratic productivity
  • Unexplained absence from the jobsite
  • Needless risk-taking
  • Not showing up for work (or, alternatively, displaying an unwillingness to go home at end of shift)
  • Carelessness or errors in judgment
  • Long lunches
  • Late arrivals and early departures
  • Disregard for safety and/or an increase in on-the-job accidents then he or she may have a drug problem.

Behavior Issues

Workers who:

  • Avoid their friends and colleagues
  • Are always short of money
  • Complain constantly about problems at work or at home
  • Blame others for everything that’s wrong in their lives
  • Are constantly taking time off for vaguely described illnesses or family issues
  • Show a lack of interest in their personal hygiene or appearance may have drug problems.

Where Do These Problems Occur?

These are issues that are outlined by the NCADD in the United States, but they’re equally prevalent in Canada. The actual loss to employers in Canada is harder to define, though, largely because Canadian statistics tend to lump lost revenues to businesses in categories like general illnesses or other reasons for absenteeism, and are less likely to directly link substance abuse to lost time due to accidents. Generally speaking though, the CCSA (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse), believes that the cost to the Canadian economy due to drug abuse exceeds $39 billion annually.

Knowledge is Power

In the United States, the DOT Employment Awareness Training Course is a web-based program for training in employee alcohol and drug awareness. It’s a one-hour course that’s available online, and covers the following information that’s required for employees who are DOT-regulated:

  • Alcohol Testing: Trains employees and supervisors alike about alcohol testing and the role of the substance abuse professional when it comes to counseling troubled employees
  • Drug Testing: Trains employees and supervisors in the process of drug testing, including specimen testing and medical reviewing of the results
  • Employee Awareness Training: Delivers a basic understanding of alcohol and drug abuse to employees, along with an awareness of how it impacts the workplace.

Provides employees with a basic understanding of the problems associated with drug and alcohol use and the impacts of that use on the workplace.

As of yet, there are no similar programs available in Canada.

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