Last Updated on March 7, 2022 by Morris Green
Substance abuse in the workplace can harm everyone involved. When an employee is using drugs or alcohol at their place of work, they are more likely to suffer an on-the-job injury, injure others around them, or harm themselves unintentionally or intentionally. In 2019, unintentional overdose due to nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol increased for the seventh consecutive year.
While substance abuse can occur in any industry, it is especially dangerous in the construction industry – where there is the added risk of getting injured by work equipment. Higher rates of substance abuse are also present in male-dominated professions, compared to female-led.
About 1 in every 11 workers in the United States (9 percent of the workforce) struggled with a substance or alcohol use disorder in the past 12 months
Statistics: How Prevalent Is Substance Abuse in the Workplace?
According to a study by the American Addiction Centers:
- Nearly a fourth – or 23 percent of people – admit to using drugs or alcohol during work hours. One in four men admits to using drugs or alcohol in their workplace, while one in five women admits to using drugs or alcohol in a professional setting.
- Alcohol is the most commonly used substance at the workplace, followed by marijuana.
- 66 percent of people admit to using alcohol during work hours.
- More than 22 percent of people admit to using marijuana recreationally at work.
- More than 10 percent of people admit to using Oxycontin or Vicodin at the workplace outside of medical need.
Signs of Workplace Substance Abuse
Substance abuse may be obvious in some cases, but much harder to spot other times. Some signs of substance abuse may include:
- When an employee’s overall performance deteriorates
- When an employee struggles to concentrate or recall details they normally would
- When an employee often disappears to bathrooms, break rooms or other areas where they can use drugs while at the workplace
- When an employee displays significant mood changes
- When an employee withdraws from coworkers or avoids them
- When an employee behaves inappropriately or obnoxiously – contrary to normal behavior
- When an employee displays a change in appearance or a sudden lack of personal hygiene
- When an employee displays physical symptoms such as tremors, shaking, staggering, sweating, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, alcohol on breath, clammy hands, or looking spaced out
Effects of Substance Abuse in the Workplace
Substance abuse in the workplace affects everyone involved – the employee, their coworkers, employer and company, and society as a whole. Employees that abuse drugs or alcohol while at work are less productive, use more sick days and are more likely to injure themselves or those around them.
Every year, drug and alcohol-related abuse by employees costs companies in the United States a total of $100 billion, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI).
Preventing Substance Abuse in the Workplace
The best way to prevent substance abuse in the workplace is to have programs and resources in place that address it directly and proactively. Ignoring substance abuse in the workplace when you see it – or disregarding it as an issue at all – does not help. It is important to have policies and programs that educate on the topic and that readily offer help and encouragement to employees when they need it.
For example, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a valuable resource for employees that offers counseling and assistance at the workplace for free. EAP and other similar resources can help employees manage their personal or work stresses and anxieties before they get out of hand, and start to disrupt their life or negatively impact their mental health.
Help is available; find a treatment center near you.