Substance use disorders

Substance use disorders are the most common, costly health conditions

There are many reasons for people to use drugs and develop an addiction, but substance abuse disorders – what we call addiction – is among the most common and costly health conditions. And this is especially true in today’s opioid crisis. Yet despite its economic cost of R2.73 trillion annually in Sothern Africa employers may not see how addiction impacts their workplace or bottom lines.

Substance abuse disorder (SUD) comes with many personal costs. Of course, this can lead to bad things, like poor health, broken relationships, and financial hardships. But it also affects others indirectly. For example, companies that are employing your services also face repercussions.

Seventy percent of people who use illegal drugs are employed either full or part-time, says the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). That’s 1 in 10 adults. And 75 percent of those people don’t get treatment. These implications are critical to examine in today’s workforce, where drug abuse is so widespread—especially since more employers are asking applicants about their history with drugs during the hiring process.

substance use disorder

Substance use Disorder

SUD (substance use disorder) has significant financial and social costs to the workplace. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) estimates that SUD costs employers over R11 billion annually through lost productivity and absenteeism, turnover and recruitment costs, workplace accidents, health care expenses, disability and workers’ compensation. In addition to the above, NCADD also claims that SUD can affect the workplace in other ways:

  • Alcohol abuse can cause hangovers and withdrawal that affects your performance at work, which can in turn affect those2 around you.
  • The use of substances at work can keep employees from performing as they should and negatively impact their focus and concentration.
  • Illegal activities at work typically include drug trafficking and selling to other employees.
  • The negative effects of drugs on the user’s mental state.
  • Low morale, poor interpersonal relations, and a lack of teamwork will likely cost your company overall.

How does an employer determine how much substance use impacts their own business? The National Safety Council has established a cost calculator for employers that provides an overview of substance-related costs in the workplace. Specific information about the costs of substance use is based on the size, industry, and geographic location of their workforce.

Fear-mongering and stigma

Fear-mongering and stigma can do tremendous harm to those struggling with addiction, so the goal of this tool is not to increase these feelings in employers. Rather, the tool offers employers a way to increase their understanding and empathy for workers who are struggling with substance use. When they obtain this awareness and empathy, they actually have the power to help by offering prevention and treatment opportunities to their employees. Substance abuse is preventable and treatable–employers should use this information as an excuse to create or enhance EAPs or provide referrals for workers who are struggling. By implementing workplace health initiatives that have been shown to improve employee well-being, organizations can combat the expense of costly medical benefits. The work environment should also be psychologically safe enough for people to speak honestly about struggles with substance abuse, thereby decreasing the use of addictive substances.

If you understand how drug and alcohol use influences the workplace, we guarantee you’ll work more effectively with your employees. This will help you develop better working relationships. You’ll also be able to show the cost savings of addressing these issues early by avoiding the costs that might come from neglecting them. One study found that employees struggling with addiction but in recovery saved their employers R50k or more per year than those who were treated but struggling (compared to those with untreated SUD).

According to research:

  1. The average business spends up to R40,000 in turnover and recruitment costs.
  2. Up to R28,400 in lost productivity each week!
  3. Related to unscheduled leave time, costs.

According to a different study, the total benefit to society of people with treatment for substance use disorder is worth over R500 million yearly.

Experts say the job market is on fire right now as the nation returns to “normalcy” following pandemic-related shutdowns riots and floods. Perhaps companies can set themselves apart by playing a role in addressing employee drug or alcohol use and misuse by linking to various prevention and treatment efforts. If not just because it is the right thing to do, or because it can impact the rest of the workforce, then because it can demonstrably affect their bottom line.

If you work in Human Resources, you’ll be interested in FIRST STEP,s resources for SUD in the workplace. Simply click hereunder to find out more.

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