The Hidden Cost Of Substance Abuse In The US

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In the US, 70% of substance abusers have full-time jobs, 65.7% of adult drug users are employed, and 15% of workers are occasionally drunk at work. Substance abuse leads to 60% of all poor performances and 40% of all industrial accidents.

  • Alcohol and drug abuse cost: $249 billion and $271 billion respectively
  • Lost productivity due to alcohol: $174 billion
  • Lost working days due to alcohol misuse: 56 million

Impact of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in the Workplace

  • Increased accident rate/injuries
  • Absenteeism/extra sick leave
  • Lowered productivity
  • Fatal accidents/premature death

Men in blue collar jobs face 3.5 times the risk of dying from alcohol-related diseases than those in managerial positions. Women in routine jobs face 5.7 times the risk of dying from alcohol-related diseases than those in white-collar industries.

Fields with the Most Problem Drinkers (per 1000 workers)

  • Construction and mining: 135
  • Wholesale: 115
  • Retail: 114
  • Leisure and hospitality: 109
  • Business, installation, maintenance, and repair: 106

Fields with the Highest Rates of Drug Abuse

  • Food preparation and serving: 17.4%
  • Construction: 15.1%
  • Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media: 12.4%
  • Sales: 9.6%
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair: 9.5%

Workforce Drug Testing Index

2016 data shows the highest (24% increase) workforce drug positivity since 2004, driven by illicit drugs.

Increase in positivity in the general U.S workforce from 2013-2016:

  • Oral fluid drug tests: 56.7% (with marijuana at a 74.7% increase – 5.1% in 2013 and 8.9% in 2016; methamphetamines at a 75% increase)
  • Hair drug tests: 41.9%
  • Urine drug test 2015-2016: cocaine at 12% increase; and 7.7% increase in the federally mandated, safety-sensitive US workforce.


Performance-related problems linked to alcohol are caused by drinking before work, resulting in hangovers that increase the frequency of:

  • Feeling sick/taking sick days
  • Sleeping on the job
  • Trouble with tasks/co-workers

Workplace drinkers are:

  • Men more than women
  • Younger more than older
  • Single rather than married
  • Managers more than their underlings

Other Statistics:

  • In the past year, 24% of drinkers drank during their workday
  • 80% of alcohol-related problems at work are from social drinkers, not alcohol -dependent people
  • One in ten small business owners report that employees have shown up for work under the influence of controlled substances.
  • Drug abuse costs businesses $81billion/year (up to 10% of annual payroll)
  • 75% of illicit drug users are currently employed (17% of the workforce)
  • 9 out of 10 drug abusers work at small or medium-sized businesses
  • 60% of adults know someone who has gone to work under the influence
  • 3 million workers go to work under the influence each year (3% of the workforce)

Employee hangovers:

  • 83% of employees admit that their performance was affected
  • 33% admit to having gone to work with a hangover
  • 22% (nearly 1 in 4) admit to making mistakes at work