The Hidden Cost Of Substance Abuse In The UK


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It has been reported that up to 3 million workers (3% of the total workforce) go to work under the influence of substances annually. Alcohol misuse costs the UK 21 billion Euros a year. Lost work days cost 7.3billion Euros per annum, and lost productivity costs 17 million Euros, both a result of alcohol misuse alone. Drug abuse costs businesses 100 billion Euros yearly (up to 10% of annual payroll) and costs the UK 15 billion Euros.

Workforce Drug-Positive Testing

It has been reported that xx65.7% of adult drug users and 75% of illicit drug users (i.e. 17% of the total workforce) are employed. Drug test data in 2016 showed the highest number of positive drug tests in the workforce in 12 years from 2004. Urine drug tests indicate a 43% increase in drug positivity in the tested workforce between 2007-2011. It showed a 44% increase in the number of employees testing positive for cocaine, 60% for marijuana, and 66% for opiates.

Individuals between the ages of 25-34 are most likely to test positive for class As, with 3.23% of employees were found with drugs in their system in 2011.

Self-reported past month use is 30-40% higher for employees in organisations without a drug testing program.

Impact of Drug Dependence and Alcoholism in the Workplace

It has been shown that workplace drinkers are generally men more than women, managers more than their underlings, younger rather than older, and single rather than married.

Alcoholism and drug dependence in the workplace can lead to lowered productivity, absenteeism and extra sick leave, increased accident rate and injuries, fatal accidents and premature death.

Substance abuse is linked to 60% of all poor performances and 40% of industrial accidents at work.

Most performance-related problems in the workplace linked to alcohol are based on workers drinking just before work or coming to work with a hangover. 83% of employees who have had a hangover at work admit that it affected their productivity, 33% admit to having gone to work with a hangover, and 22% admit to having made mistakes at work because of a hangover.

Hangovers in the workplace increase the frequency of falling sick and taking sick days, sleeping on the job, and trouble with tasks and co-workers.

One in ten small business owners indicate that employees have shown up under the influence of a controlled substance, including marijuana, narcotics and alcohol. 24% of workers reported drinking during the workday at least once in the past year.

Industries with the highest rates of drug abuse

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

Industries with the most problem drinkers (per 1000 workers)

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

It has been observed that women who have routine jobs, such as sewing machinists and cleaners, stand 5.7 the risk of death from an alcohol-related disease than women in white-collar industries; men who have blue-collar jobs face 3.5 times the risk than those in managerial positions.

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