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The Cost of Substance Use in the Workplace

Employers are increasingly concerned with mental health and substance use in the workplace. Sober Grid utilizes a calculator developed by the National Safety Council to calculate the cost.

Employee Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health has become an increasingly discussed and accepted topic for companies with COVID-19 largely acting as a catalyst. A recent study showed that:

  • 52% of employers are experiencing serious workplace issues with substance abuse and addiction in the workplace

  • 31% say mental health is having a serious financial impact on their company

Substance abuse and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand, and understanding that combination helps to combat the associated stigma.

One drink to relax turns into a few too many, medication doses increase, that sore back needs a little more help each week to get the day going. Stress at work, home, financial, societal, etc. increase the rates and severity of use.

Covid as a Catalyst

The frequency and severity of depression and anxiety symptoms in the United States peaked to all-time levels during the pandemic, as did the overdose rate. There were 81,000 overdose deaths in the United States during a 12-month period of Covid, the highest recorded total of all time. As workers moved to home offices, hybrid models, or were laid off, isolation amplified these symptoms.

Substance Use Employer Calculator

Employers are well aware of the effects that sickness, obesity, and workplace injuries have on their bottom line. Insurance companies actively encourage physical wellness in employees to reduce claims. Companies incentivize employees with weight-loss challenges, improve safety standards and equipment, and internal wellness and therapy programs.

Developed by the National Safety Council (NSC), the Substance Use Calculator uses evidence gathered from studies around alcohol and substance abuse in employees by separate industries and regions to estimate the cost to businesses. Click on the image below and enter your information, then read on to understand where the numbers come from. The totals may surprise you.

Now let's take a look at some of the numbers that factor into this equation:

SUD by Occupation

a table describing a list of occupational fields and their percentage of substance use
Taken from the National Safety Council's report on Substance Use by Occupation

Substance use disorders are extremely prevalent in physical jobs and those with lower barriers to entry such as unskilled labor positions and service industry. Male-dominated industries carry an even higher rate. Almost 20% of construction workers carry an SUD designation.

SUD Costs to Employers for Untreated SUD

Many of these costs aren't immediately recognized by the employer- a missed day due to sickness is actually a hangover, an injury from a fall was related to substance use, a motivated employee whose job quality drops and needs to be let go might be suffering from a serious depressive episode.

The annual cost to employers related to SUD increases as the employee earns a more prominent role in the organization. Creating an action plan and return-to-work program for those suffering from mental health and substance use issues can help stop these issues earlier in an employees career.

SUD Turnover Rates by Industry

table of turnover rates by industry related to substance use disorder
Taken from the National Safety Council's report Turnover and Substance Use: What It Costs and What Can be Done

Turnover rates are not only a cost to employers but an interruption in workflow and quality. Those who have received treatment for SUD and recovered possess a lower turnover rate on average than those who never had an SUD issue at all, placing an emphasis on SUD treatment availability in the workplace.

Mental Health and SUD Treatments Costs

table showing mental health and substance treatment use costs for different treatments
Taken from the National Safety Council's report How Workers with Active Substance Use Disorders Impact Employer Health Care Costs

Finally we delve into the costs of treatment. Many of these options are reactive rather than proactive care and can be avoided with proper support and programs in the workplace.

How to Prevent and Treat SUD, and Reduce Costs

One of the primary recommendations by the National Safety Council is the use of Worker Peer Support Programs, with the assistance of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and structured Return-to-Work plans for those returning from a leave of absence.

Sober Grid assists EAPs, employers, and insurance providers by utilizing digital Peer Support Groups as well as certified Peer Support Coaches in conjunction with the NSC's recommendations. Members who use our 3rd party platform can remain anonymous, avoid the stigma of SUD and mental health treatment, find a support community, and lean on the daily support and knowledge of a coach with lived experience.

If needed we can also provide discounts to our digital therapeutics for depression and alcohol misuse to add to the employees recovery program. We provide a continuum of care that can result in:

  • Decreased depression and anxiety

  • Increased sense of wellbeing

  • Reduced job turnover, workplace accidents, and related healthcare costs

  • Long-term recovery from substance abuse and depression

Our goal is to continue creating partnerships with employers and insurance providers to expand treatment options for all who need it and advance the field of SUD and SMI research in the process.

Please reach out today for a demonstration of what we can provide for your organization.

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