According to the Surgeon General, substance misuse costs society an estimated $442 billion each year. And with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reporting that almost 11 million full-time workers in the United States have substance abuse disorder (SUD) , it’s not surprising that American businesses absorb a large portion of those costs through healthcare costs, absenteeism, and lost productivity. In fact, the impact from the loss of productivity equals a staggering $130 billion annually according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In addition, SUD in the workplace contributes to 65 percent of on-the-job accidents and somewhere between 38 and 50 percent of all workers’ compensation claims, per the United States Department of Labor. Meanwhile, the National Safety Council reports that Americans struggling with opioid addiction miss approximately 50 percent more work than other employees.

The good news is that prevention and treatment programs have been proven to be effective in improving worker productivity among employees with SUD. When employees get help, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reports that unplanned absences decrease by 85 percent and discipline problems decrease by 75 percent. 

And addressing SUD at work is not just good business, it’s the right thing to do: an employee with SUD is at risk financially and emotionally and their place of employment can play a front line role in supporting them. It’s also good for the company culture. Employees struggling with SUD can have a trickle down effect on their coworkers who may have to pick up extra assignments or shifts, or may find it challenging to work effectively with someone with addiction. Plus, when employees see that their employers offer treatment and or support, they are more likely to address any issues that may be impacting their performance.

So, when Substance Use Disorder is impacting your business, what do you do?

The first step is to address the stigma. More than 20 million Americans need SUD treatment but don’t get it. And at least twenty percent of workers cite fear of stigma as the reason for not seeking help. We wouldn’t expect an employee with the flu not to seek treatment for fear of losing their job or being labeled as sick, would we? But our employees struggling with drug and alcohol problems often fear how they will be judged or mislabeled due to the very real health issue they face. Companies can ease their fears by offering support, communicating that support is available, and then training managers on how to access support and guide employees with SUD.

The next step is offering treatment options that are accessible to their workforce. Telehealth, for example, is one of the most effective ways to reach and treat  people with SUD. It’s also one of the most effective ways to support recovery. With a telehealth solution, people can seek and receive treatment from the privacy of their home or even a quiet conference room. Receiving treatment from a private, comfortable and familiar setting, reduces a major barrier to seeking help.  

Also, it’s flexible. When you take away the need to commute to and from treatment and you add in options for different times of the day, treatment becomes a much more realistic option for employed people who may have been wondering how to get the help they need without signaling to their employers that there is a problem.

There’s plenty you can do if SUD is impacting your business. Doing nothing is not an option. Need help with the next step? Want to learn more? Email us.