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Opiate Addicted Employees an $81 Billion Liability for Businesses

Posted by: on February 7, 2018 in Uncategorized


Americans struggling with opioid addiction miss 50% more work than their peers.

imageOpiate drug use among a company’s employees can be an expensive problem for business owners, creating issues that can result in loss of income, low employee morale, legal trouble, and loss of employees. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the cost of addiction to employers is $81 billion each year. This includes the time lost and low production of the worker, sick leave used as well as hiring and training replacement workers and paying for injuries that resulted from alcoholism and addiction.

A 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 20.1 million people aged 12 and over had a substance use disorder, and of those people, 11.8 million were specifically misusing opioids.

Identifying Opiate Addicted Employees in the Workplace

While there is no definitive list of the symptoms and signs of an opiate addiction, it’s important to note certain out-of-place behaviors, as they may possibly alert the employer to a deeper issue with their employee.

  • Loss of production: Many people suffer from their opiate addiction in secret. They will attempt to be “normal” for as long as they possibly can. Eventually they start to lose their grip on everything, and will start to falter in certain areas. The first area is typically productivity, as it becomes too much of a struggle to manage all of their duties. Employers should take note when an employee begins to lose productivity, as it can be one of the first signs of an opiate addicted employee.
  • Absenteeism: Opiate addicted employees may also begin to use more sick time than normal. According to a recent analysis from the National Safety Council, workers with substance use disorders miss nearly 50% more days than their peers, and up to a total of six weeks of work annually. While increased absenteeism can be the result of many different issues or situations, it is another sign that an employee’s opiate addiction may be becoming too much for them to manage on their own.
  • Injuries and accidents: Of course employers want to strive for an accident-free workplace, so a sharp increase in accidents and injuries is a big red flag. Changes in procedures or routine can sometimes increase accidents, which can be mediated with additional training. But if the increase is related to just one employee and is not easily remedied, it may be a bigger issue.

Issues Stemming From Opiate Addiction in the Workplace

One employee struggling with opiate addiction can cause a variety of issues for their employer. In addition to a loss of productivity, missed work days and increased injuries or accidents, here are some of the other issues caused by addiction:
  • Tardiness or sleeping on the job.
  • After-effects such as withdrawal that affect work performance.
  • Decreased efficiency.
  • Poor decision-making.
  • Low morale in other co-workers.
  • Increased irritability affecting relationships with colleagues and supervisors.
  • Theft of goods or money.
  • Preoccupation with obtaining opiates, resulting in an inability to concentrate.
  • Soliciting drugs from other employees.
  • Negative impacts on client relationships due to employee behavior.
  • Increased chance of expensive litigation due to the amount of liabilities stemming from the above issues.

What Can Employers Do?

Because of the large amount of time employees spend at work, the employer is often among the first to notice the effects of addiction on the employee. Employers should be proactive and discreet in addressing issues, with a focus on offering assistance rather than discipline. By encouraging and supporting a treatment plan for the employee, the employer can help reduce the negative impact of addiction in the workplace, as well as reduce the costs associated with it.

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is one of the most effective ways an employer can address drug problems in the workplace. An EAP is a work-based intervention program designed to identify and assist employees in resolving personal problems (e.g., marital, financial or emotional problems; family issues; substance/alcohol abuse) that may be adversely affecting the employee's performance. EAPs deal with a variety of problems with confidentiality and are able to help provide short-term counseling, assessment, and referral to treatment centers.

Research has shown that substance abuse treatment pays for itself in reduced healthcare and liability costs. Employers who run successful EAP programs see increased morale and productivity as well as a reduction in missed work days, injuries, turnover, and theft. As an employer continues to run an EAP program, they see better health status among employees and their family members, decreasing health care benefit costs in the long term.

Employers can contact their HR Outsourcing representative to ensure that their benefits program includes an Employee Assistance Program.

Emplicity understands that HR Outsourcing should be simple and meaningful. As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), we strive to be a great partner in supporting your business. If you would like to request more information on how we can assist your needs, please reach out to us at 877-476-2339. We are located in California – Orange County, Los Angeles, and the greater Sacramento and San Francisco area.

NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of their clients.