Is Substance Abuse Impacting Your Workplace?

Susan Day

By: Susan Day - Regional Relationship Manager, Fairbanks

Categories: Health, Social Responsibility, Workplace Wellness

Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the most costly health problems in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking costs the U.S. $223.5 billion a year with 72 percent of the costs in lost workplace productivity.

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There is a strong likelihood that you are working with someone who is struggling with alcohol and drug issues or may be in recovery from using these substances. The abuse of prescription drugs, marijuana and alcohol continue to rise and the need for treatment is great. Over 23 million Americans have untreated substance abuse issues and another 23 million are in recovery from addiction. Substance use in the workplace is growing, placing companies at risk for lowered productivity, low morale, higher insurance costs and safety concerns.

Sixty-seven percent of human resource professionals indicate substances in the workplace are one of the most serious issues facing their company workforce today. Due to their limited experience approaching an employee who struggles with substance abuse, the issue often goes unaddressed.

According to the book "An Employer's Guide to Workplace Substance Abuse: Strategies and Recommendations," employers cite the following reasons these issues are not addressed:

--I lack experience identifying substance abuse and addiction
--I lack information regarding treatment options
--I have a personal discomfort in approaching employees about the issue
--I do not have enough time to deal with substance abuse and addiction in the workplace

These are all education and training concerns which can be addressed to provide greater comfort and ensure better identification of this issue in any workplace. Left unaddressed, the company will pay for the employees and the related concerns over and over again.

No company is immune. With this in mind, what can your company do?

Have a company substance abuse policy which reflects drug screening and the option for treatment and recovery for employees. Know coverage options through your insurance policy for substance abuse treatment. Educate managers in your organization on recognizing substance abuse in the workplace. Offer lunch and learns for the workforce on this issue. Be proactive about safety sensitive duties by putting measures in place to catch any issue that may arise. Many companies offer employees the opportunity to come forward and share their needs for treatment.

Employers and employees can benefit from drug and alcohol treatment. Benefits include lower healthcare costs, improved employee health, better job performance and morale and less corporate liability.

Susan Day is a regional relationship manager for Fairbanks.

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