Save Your Company Money by Assuring Access to Substance Abuse Treatment

Did you know that about 19.2 million U.S. workers (15%) reported using or being impaired by alcohol at work at least once in the past year? And that doesn’t even begin to address the effects alcohol and other substances have on employee performance, health, service, quality and safety.

A substance-use disorder refers to misuse of, dependence on or addiction to alcohol or other drugs. Alcohol is by far the most widely used drug in the United States: 11% of workers have a problem with alcohol. About 20.4 million people use illegal drugs and 7 million use prescription drugs non-medically. Most drug users are employed: Of the 17.9 million illicit drug users aged 18 or older (based on a 2006 study), 13.4 million (74.9%) were employed either full or part time.

The costs of care – and of not caring               

If you were to lose an employee to health issues or repercussions from drinking, replacing them costs from 25 percent to almost 200 percent of annual compensation — not including the loss of institutional knowledge, service continuity, coworker productivity and morale that can accompany employee turnover.               

By investing in substance abuse treatment, employers can reduce their overall costs. Substance-use disorders cost the nation an estimated $276 billion a year, with much of the cost resulting from lost work productivity and increased healthcare spending. Given that three quarters of the people with drug or alcohol problems are employed, employers have a major stake in ensuring that employees have access to substance abuse treatment.

Substance abuse imposes a variety of costs on employers:

Increased healthcare and insurance costs

  • Healthcare costs for employees with alcohol problems are twice those for other employees.
  • People who abuse drugs or alcohol are three and one-half times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident than other workers.

Reduced productivity

  • Employees who use drugs, consume alcohol at work, or drink heavily away from work are more likely than other employees to exhibit job withdrawal behaviors, such as spending work time on non-work-related activities, taking long lunch breaks, leaving early, or sleeping on the job.
  • Employees who drink heavily off the job are more likely to experience hangovers that cause them to be absent from work; show up late or leave early; feel sick at work; perform poorly; or argue with their coworkers.

More turnover  

  • People with drug or alcohol problems were more likely than others to report having worked for three or more employers in the previous year.

Investing in Treatment Can Save Employers Money

When workers with substance use disorders get treatment both employers and employees benefit through:

  • Better employee health and lower total healthcare costs over time
  • Less absenteeism
  • Improved job performance
  • Reduced costs associated with short- and long-term disability and workers’ compensation
  • Fewer accidents and less corporate liability

Two types of employer sponsored programs can help employers reduce costs

There are generally two comprehensive workplace programs that incorporate wellness and substance abuse education components. They are Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide substance abuse screening and treatment referral; and comprehensive workplace programs that incorporate wellness and substance abuse education components. Since the savings from investing in substance abuse treatment can exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.6, the “healthy” return on your investment is like money in your pocket.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!