From alcoholism to marijuana use and prescription drug overuse, substance use disorder (SUD) is alarmingly widespread in the workplace today.
By the Numbers:
- Approximately 70% of all adults with an alcohol or illicit drug use disorder are employed. 
- Nearly 9% of employed adults have a current alcohol or illicit drug use disorder. 
- One in 12 workers has an untreated substance use disorder. 
- Jobs with a large percentage of male employees have higher rates of SUD. (e.g., in construction, 19% of workers suffer from a substance use disorder) 
- More than 40 states reported increases in substance misuse and opioid-related overdoses as people grapple with stress and mental health issues heightened by the lingering pandemic. 
- 75% of employers say their workplaces are impacted by opioid misuse. 
- One year into the pandemic, an increase in alcohol and other substances was affecting 49% of American workers. 
- More U.S. workers are testing positive for marijuana than ever before. Positivity rates are up 31.4% from the all-time low of 3.5% just 10 years ago. 
Implications of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) on Employers:
Aside from severely compromising employee health, SUD can impact employers’ financial health. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that SUD can cost as much as $81 billion in absenteeism, presenteeism, loss of productivity, higher healthcare bills, and workers’ compensation claims.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found substance users cost employers twice as much in workers’ compensation and medical expenses. In fact, they’re five times more likely to file workers’ compensation claims.
A greater prevalence of SUD among employees can make the workplace unsafe for everyone. Poor judgment, slower reflexes, and careless errors are some of the byproducts of employee SUD that can be especially costly (and catastrophic) on the job when concentration or the ability to react quickly is absolutely essential (e.g., driving a delivery truck, operating a forklift, climbing a ladder, etc.)
The U.S. Department of Labor claims that 65% of on-the-job accidents are related to drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace.
How Employers Can Take Action
Despite the growing costs and concern, only 17% of employers think they are well prepared to address the impact of growing SUD on their workplace. Fortunately, an experienced benefits advisor can help. With a wide range of expertise and access to resources, they can offer support that helps you better contain the costs of SUD more confidently by helping you:
- Focus on prevention and advocating worker well-being.
- Review employee assistance programs (EAP) and health offerings to make sure they offer robust services, including:
- Specially trained professionals who can manage instances of SUD
- Adequate coverage for providing a full range of treatments, from inpatient and outpatient to follow-up care and ongoing support for recovery
According to the National Safety Council, workers in recovery:
- Miss 7 fewer days each year than workers with an untreated SUD
- Miss 6 fewer days than an average employee
- Help employers avoid $8,175 in turnover, replacement, and healthcare costs
- Consider additional support tools that may be effective for dealing with SUD-afflicted employees.
- Understand the importance of documenting and communicating a drug-free work environment, a key factor for disputing or denying workers’ comp claims where SUD is suspected.
- Be aware of changing laws, particularly around legalizing cannabis and how marijuana use can affect operations and future workers’ comp claims.
- Comply with state and federal discrimination regulations that protect employees with SUD undergoing treatment.
- Develop programs that can help you maintain a safe and productive work environment.
Contact us today to discuss ways to help contain costs and keep employees safe.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. BRP Group, Inc. and its affiliates, do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult with your own tax, legal or accounting professionals before engaging in any transaction.
 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)