Workplace substance abuse causes variety of problems

Substance abuse does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, age, national origin, income, socio-economic or educational


The abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in the workplace cost U.S. companies over $100 billion a year, both directly and indirectly.

The National Household Survey on Drug abuse reports that of the 12.3 million adult users of illicit drugs, 9.4 million or 77 percent are employed, 40 percent are employed with businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and most users earn an average of $25,000 a year.

The American Council for Drug Education reports that

1 in 4 workers have used drugs in the past year.

A study by the U.S. Navy places the average company cost for each substance abusing employee at about $6,600 and the national average of employees with a substance abuse problem at 17 percent per company.

Workplace substance abuse reduces net revenue, affects employee's bonuses; health benefits costs and profit sharing and/or stock options. Workplaces are also faced with loss of productivity, diminished quality of work, increased absenteeism and more injuries among other issues. Addressing these issues can be exhausting and affects the overall performance of the company.

Substance abuse in the workplace is a reality, and it must be addressed through employee and supervisor education and other interventions to ensure the overall well-being of the company, their customers and employees.

Factors contributing

to employee drinking

Drinking is associated with the workplace culture and acceptance of drinking, workplace alienation, the availability of alcohol and the existence and enforcement of workplace alcohol policies.

•Workplace culture: The culture of the workplace may either accept and encourage drinking or discourage and inhibit drinking. A workplace's tolerance of drinking is partly influenced by the gender mix of its workers.

•Workplace alienation: Work that is boring, stressful, or isolating can contribute to employees' drinking.

•Alcohol availability: The availability and accessibility of alcohol may influence employee drinking. More than two-thirds of the 984 workers surveyed at a large manufacturing plant said it was "easy" or "very easy" to bring alcohol into the workplace, to drink at work stations, and to drink during breaks.

•Supervision: Limited work supervision, often a problem on evening shifts, has been associated with employee alcohol problems.

•Alcohol policies: Researchers found that most managers and supervisors in one large manufacturing plant had little knowledge of the company's alcohol policy.

Workers' knowledge that policies were rarely enforced seemed to encourage drinking.

Effects of

employee drinking

Alcohol-related job performance problems are caused not only by on-the-job drinking but also by heavy drinking outside of work.

Ames and colleagues found a positive relationship between the frequency of being "hungover" at work and the frequency of feeling sick at work, sleeping on the job and having problems with job tasks or co-workers. The hangover effect was demonstrated among pilots whose performance was tested in flight simulators.

Yesavage and Leirer found evidence of impairment 14 hours after pilots reached blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of between 0.10 percent and 0.12 percent.

Morrow and colleagues found that pilots were still significantly impaired eight hours after reaching a BAC of 0.10 percent.

Drinking at work, problem drinking and frequency of getting drunk in the past 30 days were positively associated with frequency of absenteeism, arriving late to work or leaving early, doing poor work, doing less work and arguing with co-workers.

Pierluigi Mancini, Ph.D., NCAC II, is the founder and executive director of the Clinic for Education, Treatment and Prevention of Addiction Inc. (CETPA).

CETPA is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to providing affordable, linguistic and culturally appropriate substance abuse and mental health services to the Latino community.

CETPA is the only Latino agency to earn a license by the Georgia Department of Human Resources as an outpatient drug abuse treatment and education program and nationally accredited by CARF for outpatient addiction and prevention services. CETPA provides professional and community presentations in Spanish to address workplace substance abuse issues.

For more information,

call 770-452-8630 in

Sandy Springs or 770-662-0249 in Norcross or visit www.cetpa.org