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Eight Alarming Facts about Addiction in the Workplace

Cost of Drug Addiction in the U.S. is $1 Trillion Each Year; Employers Pay a Heavy Price

By Brian McAlister

Addiction is a chronic disease, one that can devastate a family. But addiction has steep business costs as well.

Despite all the media coverage about America’s addiction epidemic, many employers remain in the dark, uncertain about the disease of addiction and what they should do.

A workplace with a commitment to addiction education, prevention and solutions is a workplace that can improve morale, retention, job satisfaction, productivity — and profits.

Here’s what employers need to know.

1. Addicts are employees in the workplace

Most addicts show up for work. In fact, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates that 70 percent of the 14.8 million Americans who are illegal drug users are also employed. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 18 million Americans misused prescription drugs in 2017. The addict is that guy sitting in the cubicle next to you. The addict is that woman sharing your commute to work. Substance abuse is prevalent in the entertainment and hospitality industry, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, but rates also are high in the scientific and tech fields, and even among medical professionals.

2. Addicts are expensive for employees and employers

Drugs, legal or illegal, are expensive. Addiction in America costs us $1 trillion each year (see chart below). The costs to businesses are astronomical. Yet employers may not know just how expensive the disease of addiction is. Some costs are easily measured; other costs, not so easily. Addicts call in sick and likely aren’t as productive. There are also the physical and administrative costs of drug testing. The reality is that annual productivity losses are $437 billion and health care costs top $166 billion. For opioids alone, the dollar costs to American industry, according to a widely reported study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information is $78.5 billion, which includes $16.3 billion in lost worker productivity and higher disability costs, plus $14 billion paid out by health insurers.

3. Treatment is simply out of reach for most in need

Less than 10 percent of the people in America who need treatment receive treatment. Some reports say 4 percent. Rehab is available only to an elite few. A comprehensive rehab program costs an average $1,500 a day. Plus, there’s this: Rehab is just the beginningof treatment, 28 days of breathing room, the start of a new life. Recovery is a lifelong commitment and requires lifelong support. The first year is critical. But again, more than 90 percent of the people in America who need treatment do not receive treatment. It’s a statistic stark enough to bear repeating.

4. Secondary care is expensive

Additional drug-related health costs are staggering. An employee who abuses drugs has seven times the health care costs; his or her spouse has three times the health care costs.

5. Addiction is an American epidemic

Opioids were declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control on Nov. 1, 2011.  The CDC noted a marked increase in the sales of prescription painkillers, as well as a marked increase in overdose deaths. That was eight years ago. Yet, as a nation, we remain slow to respond. Today, addiction costs the economy more than $1 trillion each year, and kills more people than gun violence and auto accidents.

6. Addiction is killing a generation

According to a report by STAT, opioids are the No. 1 cause of death for people under 50. Opioids kill more than 100 people a day. If we do not act, opioids will kill 650,000 people in the next decade.

7. Women are especially at risk

Woman are the fastest-growing group of drug and alcohol users, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Due to biological differences, through no fault of their own, women also become addicts faster than men, which makes this statistic even more alarming.

8. Addiction is killing the workplace productivity

The cost of the opioid epidemic alone in the United States since 2001 has reached more than $1 trillion, according to a report by Altarum released in early 2019. What are the losses? They are calculated in lost wages, lost productivity and in health care costs, in addition to the loss in tax revenue. Addiction affects one in five Americans, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse; we lose $437 billion every year in lost productivity – as noted above.

Picture Source :

alt= "Pie Chart of United States Drug Addiction"

Employers can break down barriers to addiction in the workplace

Employers can break down barriers to addiction recovery by providing education and access to addiction recovery support that is confidential, cost-effective, and designed to encourage a full emotional and physical recovery for the employee. This is critical for employers to succeed in retaining top talent, as well as managing associated addiction-related costs, including:

  • Skyrocketing health care costs and insurance premiums
  • Decreasing productivity
  • Associated litigation costs
  • Disruptive work environment
  • The risk of damage to your brand

At the start, employers must understand that addiction is a disease and how to meet the specific needs of their working staff who have substance use disorders (SUDs). SUD includes addiction to illegal and prescription drugs, as well as alcohol. Prevention and recovery methods are the same at the core. An educated leadership team, policies, procedures and empathy is the key to a healthy workplace for all and a positive and safe workplace environment.

200,000 people already have access to Freedom 365 through employers

200,000 employees and their families already have access to Freedom 365 Virtual Recovery System™ addiction recovery and relapse prevention support through their employers.

To learn how Freedom 365 helps businesses, click here.

To request an employer demo, click here.


About the Author: Brian McAlister’s sober date is August 2, 1990. He is now the CEO and president of the Full Recovery Wellness Center and Freedom 365 Virtual Recovery System™. He is also the best-selling author of Full Recovery: The Recovering Person’s Guide to Unleashing Your Inner Power. Brian created Freedom 365 to put a full year of 24/7, secure and private addiction recovery support in the palm of your hand, anywhere, and on any device. Find out more here.

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