Drug Addiction

The Real Cost of Addiction

May 9th, 2017
Distraught man on cellphone

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug and alcohol abuse are costing the nation over $700 billion each year. These costs are not just related to health care and crime but also to lost work productivity.

Despite the stereotype that those with substance abuse problems are living on the streets and spend their days searching for their next high, 70 percent of Americans with substance abuse problems are employed. Although individuals suffering from an addiction might have a job, their addiction is holding them back from performing that job to their fullest potential, costing businesses $81 billion per year.

Some of the most common problems caused by addiction in the work place are lost productivity and absenteeism. Employees with substance abuse problems are often unable to concentrate on the task at hand and therefore take longer to complete a task correctly, causing companies time and money. Addiction also causes employees to miss an excessive amount of work days.

Other Ways in Which Substance Abuse Takes a Toll on Businesses Are:

  • Theft
  • Injuries
  • Low morale
  • Fatal accidents
  • Legal liabilities
  • Higher turnover
  • Poor performance
  • Careless mistakes
  • Poor decision making
  • Difficulty working with others
  • Illegal activities in the work environment

How Addiction Affects You as a Coworker:

Whether you work at a mom-and-pop shop or a Fortune 500 company, a coworker’s addiction can affect the entire team. Image you work at an advertising agency and one of your coworkers shows up an hour late to work, smelling like whiskey, and slurring their words. Just because they are intoxicated does not mean that you can cancel the big presentation. The clients are still waiting in the conference room; your boss still wants to see those reports by 1pm. The rest of the team, including yourself, must step up and pick up the slack.

Not only does having a coworker with an addiction create more work for everyone else, but it can create a hostile work environment. Because addiction often changes an individual’s personality, those under the influence may become dishonest, secretive, angry, or confrontational. This can make working together difficult and lower workplace morale.

Addiction can also create an unsafe work environment. Employees under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more likely to have accidents in the workplace. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 11 percent of workplace fatalities occurred when the individual was under the influence. Substance abuse does not just put the user in danger but also everyone around them. Depending on their field of work, one careless mistake could be deadly.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Coworker Has a Substance Abuse Problem:

  • Do not ignore the problem
  • Keep a written log of any incidents
  • Do not cover for them
  • Do not lend them money
  • Talk to them directly, if you feel comfortable enough to do so
  • Talk to your manager or your Human Resources Department

How Addiction Affects You as a Business Owner:

No matter how much you may like an employee, if they suffer from substance abuse problem they are hurting your business. Those suffering from an addiction cannot perform at their fullest potential. Even high-functioning alcoholics, who put all their energy into hiding their addiction, make mistakes, miss meetings, and hit rock bottom.

Addressing an employee’s addiction might be uncomfortable, but it could save your business. Not only does addiction often lead to injuries – that you will be liable for – but it also leads to theft. It could even damage the reputation of your company.

While firing the employee might seem like an easy solution, the cost of replacing them is more than just putting up an ad online. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, the cost for replacing a minimum wage employee is 16 percent of their annual salary. Replacing a cashier at your store could cost you about $3,328 in recruiting and training. In the case of high power positions, the cost exceeds a year’s salary. The cost to replace a CEO who earns $100,000 is $213,000.

Ways Employers Can Battle Addiction in the Workplace:

Create a Healthy Work Environment

Stressful or hostile work environments can exacerbate substance abuse issues. Make sure that your employees are happy working there and take into consideration any of their suggestions to improve morale.

Educate Your Staff

It is important for staff to not only know the policies on substance use in the workplace but to also be able to recognize signs of someone using.

Consult a Lawyer

Not only is it important to know what you are liable for but a lawyer can help you implement a substance abuse policy.

Know Your Insurance Policy

Substance abuse treatment might be covered under your insurance. Letting the employee know that their company insurance will cover their treatment might encourage them get the help they need.

Do Not Ignore the Problem

Ignoring the problem will only put the company at risk. As difficult as that conversation might be, it is important to speak with the employee suffering from substance abuse.


Discussing addiction in the workplace might still be taboo, but with the increasing economical toll that it is taking we can no longer ignore it. It is time for companies to help their employees – and themselves.


If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, we are here to help. Reach out to Mountainside by calling 888 833 4676.