Each year, drug and alcohol addiction costs American businesses and organizations about $81 billion in lost profits. While some may picture a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) as someone who has no home, job, or friends, that is simply not the case for all. In fact, over 70% of people with an SUD are employed. However, maintaining employment does not mean that those with an SUD are high performers at work: 42% of people with an addiction who have a job report a decrease in productivity due to their addiction. This lost productivity costs employers an estimated $25.5 billion each year. Lost revenue is not the only issue because of an addicted workforce. The list of job problems caused by addiction is long and have a negative impact on everyone involved.
The nature of work can be a determining factor for if someone will have an SUD. The industry with the highest rate of people who drink heavily is mining, followed by construction, and then hotels/restaurants. The industries with the highest rates of illicit drug use are hotels/restaurants, arts and entertainment, and management. Professions that include long hours are associated with harmful daily levels of alcohol consumption, such as healthcare workers. Shift work has been associated with binge drinking, and other industries at risk are high stress jobs like emergency workers and fire personnel.
Job Problems For The Employer
Employers may be unaware of their employee’s addiction, and many addicts cover up their unexplained behavior and absences as medical problems. Presenteeism is also an issue, which is defined as workers who arrive to their job but are not fully functioning. This may be because of a hangover, withdrawal symptoms, or being intoxicated while at work. When researchers looked at the high-cost effects of heavy drinking, such as medical bills, alcohol-related crimes, and lost productivity, they found that hungover workers caused the largest loss. These hungover workers either did not show up to work or arrived but could not function.
Probably the most important issue in job problems caused by addiction is safety. This severely impacts both employer and employee. For any company involving heavy equipment, manufacturing, or transportation, it can be extremely dangerous for someone to be under the influence while at work. Studies show that those who abuse drugs or alcohol are 3 times more likely to cause or experience an injury-related absence. One hospital emergency room (ER) study found that 35% of patients who suffered an injury at work were at-risk drinkers, and a breathalyzer test found alcohol in 16% of ER patients who had been injured at work.
- 24% of workers report drinking during the workday at least once
- 11% of workplace fatality victims had been drinking
- 20% of workers and managers report that a co-worker’s drinking jeopardized their productivity and safety
Lost profit and productivity, and injuries or fatalities are major concerns for every employer. This also effects the morale of other employees, increases turnover, and takes time away from the managers who now must handle the addict’s performance and attendance problems. It is important for employers to be able to recognize the signs of addiction, such as physical signs like red, watery eyes, sweaty palms and shaking hands, and a loss in personal hygiene. Addicts at work may exhibit a personality change, such as losing motivation and energy and becoming irritable. Unexplained absences and frequent sick days without an explanation might be a sign of substance abuse, but employers must be careful not to violate medical privacy or be acting in a discriminatory way. Employers may need to conduct a drug test and offer support if their employee is suffering from an addiction.
Job Problems For The Employee
A person suffering from a substance use disorder is not only affecting their own lives, they are impacting their family, friends, co-workers, and managers. If your drug or alcohol use is affecting your job negatively in any way and you continue to use, you may be suffering from a serious addiction. Treatment providers can answer your questions and help you start the road to a safe, happy, and sober life. Each substance effects the body in a different way. Alcohol can make someone drowsy, have slowed reflexes, and have impaired judgment and motor function. Opiates, like Heroin or prescription pain medications, can cause a loss of interest at work, craving, and sweating. Consuming Cannabis before or during work may cause impaired coordination and memory, as well as a distorted sense of time. Stimulants, like Cocaine, will cause overactivity, anxiety, and a rapid heartbeat.
Consuming alcohol before or during work is an obvious sign of an alcohol use disorder, but some may not consider arriving to work with a hangover everyday an issue. Not only is a hangover unpleasant, with feelings of nausea, headache, and dizziness, it greatly impacts productivity and may add pressure and responsibility to your coworkers so they can pick up the slack. Repeating this behavior will lead to resentment from peers and potentially cause isolation. Obviously, poor performance at work may lead to termination from employment. If a person’s resume has repeated terminations at several different employers, it will give potential future employers concern when hiring and they may choose to go with a candidate who has a better track record.
Some people with an alcohol use disorder may consider themselves a “functional alcoholic” and believe that they can perform well at work and continue to drink excessively. If they have not been fired or arrested, this might lead to denial of acknowledging that their drinking is dangerous. Some signs that you or someone you know may be a functioning alcoholic are joking about drinking habits, making drinking the focus of social life, and being able to drink a larger amount than everyone else. Friends and co-workers may ignore the symptoms, possibly because the addict is a manager or in a position of authority. If someone must drink immediately after work to “unwind” and gets irritable if they have to work late, this is a major sign for concern. There have been many famous high-functioning alcoholics throughout history, but the addiction usually catches up to them.
Celebrity High-Functioning Alcoholics
Many celebrities have been praised for their glamorous party lifestyle, but things are never what they seem from the outside looking in, especially for someone battling an addiction. Stephen King is one of the highest paid authors in the world, producing dozens of best-selling stories, such as The Shining, It, and Pet Sematary. However, his dark stories were a reflection of the darkness that he struggled with, starting with alcohol. King believed that alcohol fueled his writing success, and he could not write without it. An article from The Fix, states that King has composed entire novels, such as The Tommyknockers, that he does not remember writing. Once introduced to Hollywood parties, King started abusing cocaine along with alcohol. Although his writing career was skyrocketing, King faced trouble at home and started feeling violent urges to hurt his children. When his wife dumped all of his drug paraphernalia on the floor in front of King’s friends and family, he knew he had to stop. Once sober, King’s writing came faster and clearer than it ever had before. His addiction was not fueling his success, it was trying to limit it.
Another famous high-functioning addict was actor Samuel L Jackson. He started using drugs, like Heroin, Cocaine, and Crack Cocaine, at age 15. He said, “The whole time I was using, sure, I had a good reputation. I showed up on time, I did my lines. I was great. But there was something that was keeping me from getting to that next place.” After getting clean, his acting career took off, earning him an Oscar nomination and becoming a household name. High-functioning alcoholics are not just Hollywood actors and authors. First Lady Betty Ford is famous for her political activism and eventually becoming the name for the Hazelden Betty Ford Addiction Treatment Center. Ford started taking Opioids for pain, and then moved on to abuse alcohol and prescription pills. After an intervention from her family and Ford seeking treatment, she realized she could create change and provide a recovery facility to help women with the same issue.
The list of high-functioning drug users who relied on their addiction as a crutch is long, but those who sought treatment and got clean had greater success than they could have ever dreamed of with their substance holding them back. This does not only apply to celebrities, every day people working in finance, real estate, communications, and every other field are limiting their potential by abusing substances.
Financial Problems Caused By Addiction
Addiction and money problems are intertwined in many ways: those who live at the poverty level are more likely to abuse substances, perhaps as an escape and to avoid serious problems. Addiction can also lead to financial ruin, and someone who may have previously had no concerns about income could be forced into poverty by their addiction. Missing work or an inability to find a job will affect the addict as an individual and their family if they have one. There is a link between addiction, poverty, and abuse: children from low income families are 25% more likely to be abused, and children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely to be abused. Eighty percent of child neglect and abuse cases are linked to substance abuse.
When 1 married person has an addiction, the other may carry the financial burden and become overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for a family and an addict. This can lead to divorce, which has its own negative impacts of lawyers’ fees and emotional damage. Even if an individual is able to maintain their employment, they face many more financial problems than someone who does not abuse a substance. People with an alcohol use disorder have healthcare costs that are twice as high as other employees. They may also face legal fees such as DUI and other arrests.
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