According to statistics from recent studies on drug abuse by American workers, workplace drug and alcohol abuse may potentially cost U.S. businesses an estimated $100 billion each year and smaller businesses are more vulnerable to drug use in the workplace but drug tested less than larger businesses. In addition, statistics showed that a majority of drug and alcohol abusers in the United States were employed: 75 percent of illicit drug users over 18, nearly 80 percent of binge and heavy drinkers, and 60 percent of adults with substance abuse problems. These statistics were cited on a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) ‘General Workplace Impact’ page on the DOL website (See: http://www.dol.gov/compliance/topics/safety-health-working-partners.htm) and taken from the ‘Working Partners’ National Conference Proceedings Report sponsored by the DOL, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (See: http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/dfwp.html#thecost).
The ‘Working Partners’ Report found the loss of money connected to drugs in the workplace occurs mainly for the following reasons:
- Workers Compensation: 38 percent to 50 percent of all Workers Compensation claims are related to substance abuse in the workplace, as substance abusers file three to five times as many Workers Compensation claims.
- Medical Costs: Substance abusers incur 300 percent higher medical costs than non-abusers.
- Absenteeism: Substance abusers are 2.5 times more likely to be absent eight or more days a year.
- Lost Productivity: Substance abusers are 1/3 less productive.
- Employee Turnover: It costs a business an average of $7,000 to replace a salaried worker.
While some employers and reseachers may question or challenge the statistics or the actual costs of drugs in the workplace, and many of these studies are based on estimates using various models, it does appear from the majority of statistics cited that substance abuse costs businesses money and has a real impact on bottom lines. According to various studies over the past two decades, workplace drug abuse is estimated to drain somewhere between $60 billion to well over $200 billion from American businesses:
- The National Institutes of Health reported that alcohol and drug abuse cost the economy $246 billion in 1992, while in 1990 problems resulting from the use of alcohol and other drugs cost American businesses an estimated $81.6 billion in lost productivity (See: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/asp/drugfree/benefits.htm).
- A 1996 paper from three professors at Virginia Tech cites studies indicating the loss can be from $60 billion to $99 billion (See: http://6aa7f5c4a9901a3e1a1682793cd11f5a6b732d29.gripelements.com/pdf/vol-717.pdf).
Although there is no way to know the exact figure, drug use in the workplace still appears to be a significant issue and is a growing concern for employers since many drug users, heavy drinkers, and people with substance use disorders are employed. A 2008 study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Office of Applied Studies (See: http://oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh/2k7nsduh/2k7results.cfm) – which included results from the 2007 National Survey on ‘Drug Use and Health: National Findings’ – revealed the following information about substance use and abuse among American workers:
- Of the 17.4 million current illicit drug users age 18 and over, 13.1 million (75.3 percent) were employed.
- Among 55.3 million adult binge drinkers, 44.0 million (79.4 percent) were employed.
- Among 16.4 million persons reporting heavy alcohol use, 13.1 million (79.6 percent) were employed.
- Of the 20.4 million adults classified with substance dependence or abuse, 12.3 million (60.4 percent) were employed full-time.
According to statistics of businesses from the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses were most vulnerable and particularly disadvantaged by worker substance use and abuse. While roughly half of all U.S. workers worked for small and medium sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees, the 2007 report ‘Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs’ from SAMHSA (See: http://oas.samhsa.gov/work2k7/work.pdf) found:
- About nine in ten employed current illicit drug users and almost nine in ten employed heavy drinkers worked for small and medium sized firms.
- About nine in ten full-time workers with alcohol or illicit drug dependence or abuse worked for small and medium size firms.
However, this report from SAMHSA also found smaller firms were generally less likely to drug test for substance use and to have drug test programs in place to combat the problem. This occurred even though smaller firms were more likely to be the employer-of-choice for illicit drug users. The report also noted that individuals who could not adhere to a drug-free workplace policy sought employment at firms that did not have a drug test policy. The cost of one error caused by an impaired employee could devastate a smaller company.
Furthermore, studies have found the impact of employee substance use and abuse is a problem that extends beyond the substance-using employee, as there is evidence that co-worker job performance and attitudes are negatively affected. Workers have reported being put in danger, having been injured, or having had to work harder, to re-do work, or to cover for a co-worker as a result of a fellow employee’s drug use.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – http://www.ESRcheck.com – is a background check firm accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) that provides a Pre-Employment Drug Screening (PDS) service website at: http://www.employmentdrugtesting.com/. PDS is a third party administrator for pre-employment drug testing provider for employers nationwide that helps small and medium sized businesses that want to conduct pre-employment drug testing quickly, easily, and inexpensively before hiring new employees. The mission of PDS is to make it feasible and easy for smaller firms to conduct pre-employment drug tests.
To read an article that gives an introduction to drug screening and explains how drug testing has become an important safety issue in the workplace for employers, visit: http://www.employmentdrugtesting.com/screening.html. For more information about PDS drug testing services, visit: http://www.employmentdrugtesting.com/index.html.
About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions. ESR is one of a select few firms accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®). This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.