Is Substance Abuse Costing Your Company?

According to a nationwide study,(1) more than 70 percent of the nearly 120 million admitted drug and alcohol abusers are employed—and some may be working for you.

Substance abuse costs U.S. employers more than $276 billion (2) each year. The costs stem from lost productivity, workplace accidents, and increased health-care and insurance costs, so it makes sense to do whatever you can to keep your workplace drug-free.

Just the facts

Drug and alcohol abuse affect all employees, not just the users. A survey sponsored by the National Institute on
Drug Abuse found that drug-using employees are—

  • 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more
  • 2.2 times more likely to request early dismissal or time off
  • 3 times more likely to be late for work
  • 5 times more likely to file a workers' compensation claim

According to the American Council for Drug Education, substance abusers don't have to use drugs or drink while at work to negatively impact their workplace. Compared to coworkers, substance abusers are—

  • 33 percent less productive
  • 10 times more likely to miss work

And there's more—

  • Alcoholism is estimated to cost 500 million lost workdays annually. (3)
  • Substance abusers are 3.5 times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents. (4)
  • It is estimated that up to 40 percent of industrial fatalities and 47 percent of workplace injuries can
    be linked to alcohol consumption. (5)
  • Health-care costs for employees with alcohol problems are at least twice those for other employees. (6)
  • People with drug or alcohol problems were more likely to report having worked for three or more employers in the previous year. (7)

The small business challenge

Because small-business owners are less likely to have formal programs in place to combat substance abuse, they become the "employer of choice" for illicit drug users who don't want to risk being tested, observed or caught. No matter what the business size, creating a culture of zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol abuse is not difficult or particularly costly, and the payoffs can be big.

Bottom line

Impaired employees increase the workloads of coworkers, compromise quality, increase turnover and can potentially harm a business's reputation. And according to one national poll, more than 60 percent of adult employees know people who have gone to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol (8)—but most didn't know what to do about it. Ultimately, substance abusers impact profitability, competitiveness, morale and safety.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

A drug-free program is the best line of defense

Preventing accidents is the most effective way to keep your comp costs low, and creating a drug-free workplace is a smart place to start. Many states offer workers' compensation premium credits to employers with formal drug-free workplace programs in place.

Get started now!

An effective program requires planning, communication, training, assistance and documentation. Check out the steps on page 3 and call your Summit loss control representative to help you develop a drug-free workplace program for your business. Also
be sure to check with your agent about taking advantage of any premium credits available
in your state.

Drug and Alcohol Use by Occupation


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies (2008). Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (NSDUH Series H-34, DHHS Publications No. SMA 08-4343). Rockville, MD.
  2. H. Harwood, D. Fountain, & G. Livermore, The Economic Costs of Alcohol & Drug Abuse in the U.S. 1992. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1998.
  3. US DHHS, SAMHSA, Worker Drug Use and Workplace Policies and Programs: Results from the 1994 and 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Rockville, MD: US DHHS, 1999.
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Bernstein, M., and J.J. Mahoney, “Management Perspectives on Alcoholism.” Occupational Medicine (1989).
  6. Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University, Substance Abuse, The Nation’s Number One Health Problem, Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, February 2001: 70.
  7. S.L. Larson, J. Eyerman, M.S. Foster, and J.C. Gfroerer, Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs, Rockville, MD: SAMHSA, OAS, 2007. http//  
  8. F. Leigh Branham, “Six Truths about Employee Turnover,” NY: American Management Association.
  9. H. Harwood, D. Fountain, & G. Livermore, The Economic Costs of Alcohol & Drug Abuse in the U.S. 1992. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1998.

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