The Rate of Americans in the Workforce Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

Businessman with Substance Abuse Disorder

A common misconception about addiction is that those abusing drugs or alcohol must be degenerate, jobless and most likely homeless. Though the term “addict” implies multiple negative stereotypes, not everyone fits the mold of what an addicted person is assumed to look and act like. In fact, a 2007 study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism discovered that only 9% of alcoholics seem to fit the “chronic severe” stereotype of having higher rates of psychiatric disorders and criminality.

Substance Abuse in the Work Place

After surveying 111,500 adults with full-time jobs between 2008 and 2012, a 2015 government report discovered that nearly one in 10 full-time workers in the United States have an illicit drug or alcohol use disorder. This abundance of abuse can have a significant impact on economic gains within the workplace, as well as worker’s productivity. For example, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimates that employee drug abuse costs employers $81 billion a year and that workers who abuse drugs or alcohol:

  • Are five times more likely to file worker’s compensation claims
  • Take three times as many sick days
  • Have a higher probability of injuring themselves or others.

And using hurts employees’ performances in other ways. Effects of substance abuse — such as hangovers, withdrawal, and the fixation on obtaining the next high — might impact work productivity. 

The Damage of Misinformation

Myths such as stereotypes about a “typical” addict might leave a person wondering what’s fact and what’s fiction. They could also deter people from seeking treatment because some myths make it harder to internalize the severity of addiction. For instance, out of the 14.8 million illicit drug users in America, 70% are employed working Americans, according to the NCADD. This statistic cuts into the stereotype of what someone battling drug or alcohol addiction is supposed to look and act like.

While a person might be able to hold down a job, drug or alcohol abuse in any capacity could cause significant damage to the one struggling and those around them. As Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration commented, “Substance abuse issues pose an enormous risk to the health, safety and productivity of American workers. Every segment of the community needs to help tackle this problem, including employers.” There isn’t a set of criteria that will determine whether a person will become addicted to drugs or alcohol. It’s a disease that can affect anyone, anywhere. But with the proper treatment and support, recovery’s possible.

By Jenna Mitchell

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