Substance Use in the Workplace

It’s no secret that alcohol and drug use by employees can be a disruption to the workplace, resulting in a decrease in productivity and an increase in injuries and health insurance claims. According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI), companies in the United States lose more than $100 billion a year due to alcohol and drug use by employees. Nor are the specific costs of diverting company resources to address substance abuse concerns included in these staggering figures. Neither does it take into account the emotional effects, or “pain and suffering” caused by those behaviors, which are impossible to measure in economic terms.

U.S. workers’ personal difficulties with alcohol and drugs increasingly create significant medical, social, and other issues for both employees and businesses. If you are an employer whose workers are using substances when and where they shouldn’t be, it can severely hinder their job performance as well as compromise their own safety.

Measuring the Costs

Costs to businesses include absenteeism, injuries, health insurance claims, lost productivity, morale, theft, and fatalities. Research suggests there are several influencing factors that may lead to alcohol or drug use in the workplace. It may be encouraged or discouraged depending on the presence and enforcement of supportive workplace policies, as well as company culture and tolerance of substance misuse.

Drug and alcohol use in the workplace is a much more common occurrence than is commonly believed. Workplace drug and alcohol abuse is the most common cause of workplace accidents, with 65% of on-the-job injuries caused by it. The usage of alcohol or drugs in the workplace accounts for 38% to 50% of all workers’ compensation claims.

Workplace Culture

The culture of the workplace may determine whether drinking and drug usage are accepted or discouraged. Workplace alcoholism and substance use can affect any sector or organization but tend to be more prevalent in the following industries: food service, construction, mining and drilling, excavation, installation, maintenance, and repair.

Workplace Alienation

According to research, employees who use substances are more likely to have low job autonomy and be bored or disrespected at work. They may also experience poor working conditions, harassment, or aggression. These factors can lead to a feeling of alienation from the workplace, which may in turn lead to substance misuse.

Alcohol Availability

The availability and accessibility of alcohol can encourage employee drinking. In a survey of 984 workers at a large manufacturing plant, more than two-thirds said it was easy or very easy to bring alcohol into the workplace, drink at workstations, and drink during breaks. Drinking on the job is considerably more common in cultures where alcohol use is actively condoned or celebrated.

Many white-collar industries not only allow drug and alcohol use but even celebrate it as part of their culture. Financial companies, consultants, and positions that require extensive networking often have cultures that see substance abuse as a means to secure contracts or attract new clients.


The level of supervision on the job can affect whether employees drink or misuse drugs while at work. A study of evening shift workers found that, when supervision was reduced, employees were more likely to drink alcohol on the job.

Prevention Works

When the problem of substance abuse at work is addressed by developing comprehensive programs, both businesses and workers benefit. By adopting a workplace substance abuse policy and developing anti-drinking and drug programs, companies can improve productivity and create a safer environment for employees.

How does drug and alcohol abuse affect the workplace?

Even when drug and alcohol use occurs outside of work it can still have harmful consequences for the workplace. As a person’s use of drugs or alcohol increases, different aspects of their lives are impacted, often triggering ripple effects that negatively affect their job.

What can the workplace do to help?

A person’s workplace can play a vital role in helping them get the treatment they need for a drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction is a treatable disease, and seeking treatment greatly increases the likelihood of recovery. Employees who get treatment for addiction often overcome their addiction and become highly productive employees. Employee assistance programs, medical leave policies, and supportive leaders all play a key role in making treatment more accessible for employees.

According to the Department of Labor, employers and employees both profit from programs and initiatives dedicated to reducing substance abuse. By implementing substance abuse policies for employees, providing health benefits that cover substance use disorders, reducing stigma and promoting awareness at work, as well as utilizing corporate wellness programs to educate, firms can raise public awareness. Not only does this improve the quality of life for employees and their families, but it can also have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Allied Trades Assistance Program

ATAP is a non-profit organization created by Philadelphia Trade Unions to contain costs and promote improved service delivery for substance use disorder, mental health concerns and related issues to union members, retirees, and dependents.

Reasons to have an Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) are many in number. ATAP services can result in a higher employee retention rate and help attract quality employees by enhancing overall organizational health and reducing work-related accidents and employee absenteeism. ATAP also provides resources for members, union officials, and management, to address employee issues and ensure that employees receive the mental health and substance counseling they need.

Learn more about our mission and the benefits we provide here.

Member’s Quick Contact

All fields are required. The members quick contact portal should be utilized for basic questions regarding the Allied Trades Assistance Program's services. If this is a true emergency please contact 800-258-6376