Substance abuse in the workplace is a staggering problem. Studies from the late 1990s indicated that small businesses are more susceptible to employee drug use as larger companies and the first decade of the new century has shown a steady increase in the number of people employed by small businesses. It’s no wonder that more and more people are seeking treatment in drug rehab centers — New York, California, and other states have seen a rapid growth in rehab facilities to meet the increasing demand.

Some studies have shown that between 8 and 10 percent of full time workers were using illegal substances, with those working in companies of less than 25 employees being twice as likely to abuse drugs. Certain industries have a higher incidence of drug and alcohol use, including construction workers, machine operators and inspectors, food workers, including waiters, bartenders, and cooks, and general laborers and helpers. The rates of heavy alcohol use in these categories is considerably higher than the rate of drug use, but both are alarming given the nature of the work involved.

Between 12%-18% of regular users in one study admitted that they felt their use resulted in a decline in their work performance. This translates to huge losses for both employers and the economy as a whole. Employees who use illicit drugs or are heavy drinkers use up to 10 times as many sick days a year compared to non-users. They are five times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents and more likely to file a worker’s comp claim. This translates to expenses and losses of around 25% of the effected worker’s salary. Alcohol alone is responsible for 500 million lost work days annually in this country.

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