Implications of Alcohol Abuse for Employers
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about one in 13 working adults in the U.S. has an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, 13% of men and 5% of women reported binge drinking at least once a week. Nearly one in four people over the age of 12 reported binge drinking in the past month.
Long work hours in some professional sectors have been associated with harmful levels of daily alcohol consumption. These include, but are not limited to, medicine & healthcare , hospitality, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, startups, retail industries, armed forces, and emergency services such as the police force or firefighting. In addition, shift work has been associated with binge drinking. Employers in these industries should be particularly thoughtful about offering support or treatment to workers who frequently work long hours in stressful conditions.
An estimated $74 billion is lost every year in reduced work productivity due to excessive alcohol consumption from absences, reduced output, premature retirement or death, or reduced earning potential. Although small- and medium-sized businesses are less likely to have programs to combat alcohol use, they are more likely to employ workers who struggle with alcohol use than larger businesses.
Employees with an alcohol use disorder miss on average 34% more days than other workers and are more likely to experience a workplace injury. In addition to missing work, workers who engage in heavy or addictive drinking are more likely to be fired or laid off than other employees. Employees with alcohol use disorders have 16% more work turnover every year than other employees.
Healthcare costs for employees with an alcohol use disorder are estimated to be twice that of other employees. Those with alcohol use disorders make more emergency room visits and spend more days in the hospital.
Few people who need treatment for a substance use disorder receive it. Of the 21.6 million people in the US who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2011, only 2.3 million received substance use treatment. For employers, providing access to treatment can produce substantial savings, exceeding costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.
Employers should make screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment a part of their health plan. A recommended practice for primary care providers, this can catch people before they develop serious alcohol use problems and help those in need of treatment. The most effective interventions are brief (up to 15 minutes) and multi-contact in their frequency.
Employers directly benefit by helping workers get treatment and enter long-term recovery. When individuals with substance use disorders receive treatment and recover, absenteeism decreases by 36% and work turnover decreases by 13% compared to a person with an active substance use disorder.
Find out how much drug and alcohol abuse is costing your company with this handy calculator.
From the National Safety Council