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Hidden risk: How drug and alcohol use costs employers and employees

By Tim Woodley

We cover the reality and impact of problematic substance misuse every week in the Help Me Stop blog section, but today we wanted to speak on the risk faced by employers through staff substance misuse. It’s a serious subject; approximately 17 million days are lost each year through drug and alcohol use, tallying up at an estimated £7.3 billion in lost productivity.


Drug positivity its impact

The trend, unfortunately, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. In 2016  testing data indicated workforce drug positivity (testing) to be the highest in 12 years, with 43% of staff polled testing positive for substances since 2011. Almost half of those tested positive for cocaine, with 60% positive for cannabis and 66% positive for opiates.

Alcohol is, unsurprisingly, particularly widespread as an issue. 80% of alcohol-related problems occur through social drinkers. A third of employees admit to having hangovers at work, with almost one in four having admitted to making mistakes at work due to their hangover. 15% admit to having been drunk at work.

These statistics go against the common notion that problematic drinkers and illicit drug users aren’t employed. The opposite is true; 75% of illicit drug users are in jobs, and 17% of them use substances on any given day. The peak age group is from 25 to 34 for class A drug use, with a staggering 200,000 lines of cocaine snorted in London alone every day.


The cost of workplace substance misuse

The impact of substance misuse in the workplace is insidious. The impact of an employee struggling with substance misuse won’t often make itself known immediately; the damage is silent initially, with the slow deterioration of productivity and wellbeing for the individual in question.

In time, the extent of the issue becomes apparent. Employers risk damage to their reputation and image through the behaviour of the individuals struggling with their substance misuse, and damage to morale and the wellbeing of other staff members is common as those afflicted continue with their substance misuse or addiction.

Failing to address this subject affects a company profoundly in the long-term, with recruitment and retention becoming more difficult as image and reputation are linked to a failure to support and care for staff.


Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Usage and experience

Problematic alcohol and drug use, then, needs to be viewed by employers as an ever-present risk and not as an isolated and distant phenomenon. Unfortunately, EAPs are often ill equipped to support staff and employers when problematic alcohol and drug use arises due to the lack of specialism and experience of their therapists in this area. That being said, on the whole only 3%-5% of employees ever access their EAP in their careers anyway.

Problematic drug and alcohol use is a subject as complex as it is varied. Help Me Stop deals with this barrier to successful treatment by employing specialist addiction therapists who have experienced their own journeys of addiction and recovery, helping to ground their professional experience and qualifications in an intimate knowledge of just what it feels like to go through a personal battle with substance misuse Furthermore, as general therapists in their own right they are also trained to treat a variety of other conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression alongside the problematic drug and alcohol use.

EAPs, by nature of being holistic services that address many subjects, usually fail to provide this degree of specialist nature by reason of simple cost. A specialist service, such as Help Me Stop provides in consultation and education for companies, will tend to be more effective in helping employees with problematic drug and alcohol use – and arming employers with the knowledge they need to support them properly.


Help Me Stop’s service for employers

As a treatment service fortunate to employ seasoned experts on problematic drug and alcohol use, the Help Me Stop team works with businesses as well as individual clients. Negotiated on an individual basis, our therapists regularly assist companies by providing  support and education on substance misuse in the workplace.

Unlike traditional intensive treatment programmes Help Me Stops programme is designed to support people while they are still working making it an ideal solution for both employee and employer.

Whether through directly providing treatment programmes to problematic drug and alcohol use employees or by providing training courses to HR and management teams on how to effectively handle drug and alcohol use in the workplace, our position as problematic drug and alcohol use specialists makes us unique in our ability to provide effective support at a reasonable cost compared to average EAP programs.


If you’d like to enquire about our business services and support, please feel free to contact us directly on 0208 191 8920 or by using our contact form.

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