The Undisclosed Cost of Substance Abuse in the UK Workplace

Why is substance addiction in the workplace an important topic in the UK?

75% of the people who use illicit drugs make up 17% of the total workforce in the UK. 3% of the workforce (i.e. 3 million workers) show up for work under the influence of alcohol yearly, 60% of adults are acquainted with someone who has gone to work under the influence of substances, 15% of workers get drunk at work at least occasionally, and 24% of workers have reported drinking during the workday at least once in the past year.

Alcohol and drug abuse cost the UK 21 and 15 billion Euros respectively. The annual cost of missed work days and loss of productivity due to alcohol misuse stands at 17 million Euros and 7.3 billion Euros respectively.

9 in 10 drug abusers work at small or medium-sized businesses. 1 in 10 small business owners reported that employees have shown up to work under the influence of a controlled substance. Businesses lose 100 billion Euros annually (up to 10% of annual payroll) due to substance abuse.

Substance abuse is behind 40% of industrial accidents and 60% of incidents of poor performance. Most alcohol-related performance problems in the workplace are a result of workers drinking just before showing up to work or having a hangover.

33% of employees admit to having shown up for work with a hangover, 83% of those who have had a hangover at work admit that it affected the way they work, and 22% (nearly 1 in 4) admit to having made mistakes at work when they showed up with a hangover.

Some of the impacts of drug dependence and alcoholism in the workplace include absenteeism/additional sick leave, lowered productivity, increased injury/accident rate, fatal accidents, and premature death.

Industries with the highest number of problem drinkers (per 1000 workers)

  • Installation, business, maintenance and repair (106)
  • Leisure and hospitality (109)
  • Retail (114)
  • Wholesale (115)
  • Construction and mining (135)

Industries with the highest rate of drug use

  • Installation, maintenance, and repair (9.5%)
  • Sales (9.6%)
  • Sports and media (12.4%)
  • Construction (15.1%)
  • Food preparation and serving (17.4%).

There are more generally men than women, managers than underlings, younger people than older people, and single people than married, who drink in the workplace.

Men whose jobs are considered blue-collar stand 3.5 times the risk of death from an alcohol-related disease than men in managerial positions.

Workforce drug positivity test

As the rate of substance abuse increases in the UK, drug testing programs have been put in place to help alleviate this negative workplace situation and ensure safety. Testing data in 2016 shows workforce drug positivity to be at its highest after 12 years, since 2004, driven by illicit drugs. Urine drug tests showed a 43% increase in positivity in the tested workforce from 2007-2011.

44% of employees tested positive for cocaine, 60% tested positive for marijuana, and 66% tested positive for opiates.

3.23% of employees tested in 2011 had drugs in their system. Individuals between the ages of 23 and 34 are most likely to test positive for Class As.

An infographic from the team at Addiction Helper

UK The Hidden cost of substance abuseUK The Hidden cost of substance abuse

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