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3 Reasons Employers Should Be Treating Addiction as a Workplace Illness

When we think of addiction, we often think of people who are deep in the illness. They’ve lost their jobs and seem completely out of control.  And while this is sometimes an accurate picture, far more common is the high-functioning employee with a substance use disorder.  Over 77% of those who struggle with addiction are employed.  And when about 4% of Canadians meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, we have a lot of employees who need help. So why should you, as an employer, consider funding treatment for you workforce? Here are three great reasons:

1. Substance Use Disorders Cost You Money

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The costs of addiction in the workplace pile up. Between absenteeism, increased workplace accidents, poof performance, disability claims, lateness and eventually replacing an employee, we’re talking some serious money here. They are 3.5 times more likely to cause an accident and they function at only two-thirds their regular capacity. On average, addiction affects attendance and performance every three days. As you can see, the actual monetary costs are high, but there are also costs to your work environment and culture. Since most workplaces are collaborative, it’s pretty likely the performance of one employee will affect the performance of their team members. You may even lose valuable people who do not want to work with someone in active addiction.

2. Good Mental Health Means Productive Employees

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When someone receives quality treatment, there are huge benefits to the employer.  Absenteeism drops by 76%, lateness by 91% and productivity soars by 76%. It just makes good financial sense; whatever an employer spends on residential treatment will made up for in the productivity of that employee.  In fact, based on the average Canadian wage of $26.10 per hour, an employer will save $6447.00 per year.  This means that in less than a year, you’ve recouped the cost of our IOP programs.  And in less than 4 years, you’ve offset average the cost of residential treatment. And that’s just the money you save on the individual, not to mention his or her coworkers.

3.  You Help More Than Just One Person

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While we’ve mentioned a lot of figures here, the case for funding treatment for employees is not only about money. When you take care of the well-being of your employees, you show them that they matter. You’re investing in their future, and the future of their family. Addiction can run in families and by helping your employee to get well, you are changing the lives of their spouse, their parents and their children.  And when employees feel that they are and their families matter to you, they are more likely to be loyal, engaged and happy members of your team. Your choice will benefit society too – research shows that addiction treatment is associated with lower healthcare costs and lower crime rates.

We believe so strongly in the role of employers in treatment that we consider them a partner in the process. We provide you with weekly updates, drug screening results, and involve you in any crises management. If you’re an employer who wants to know more about how we can help your teams, please call 647-748-5501 or head to

Substance Use and Addiction: What Does Work Have to Do With It?

glasses upCould your job be encouraging a substance use disorder?

Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their job.  But there are certain fields where substance abuse and addiction are more common, and they tend to have a few things in common. Research shows that high stress, low job satisfaction, long hours or irregular shifts, fatigue, repetitious duties, boredom, isolation, irregular supervision and easy access to substances can all contribute to the problem. But what groups are most affected?.  We know that employees in the arts and entertainment, mining and food services are more likely to report heavy drinking in the past month compared to other employment groups. On the other hand, employees working in healthcare and education are the least likely to report heavy alcohol use. 

Risk Factors Explained:

There are several factors associated with different types of jobs that may lead to an increased likelihood of problematic substance use. Low employee visibility and isolation can be high risk for substance use and misuse. Jobs that involve a substantial amount of travel, and therefore less direct supervision such as some sales jobs, construction or contracting jobs, can lead to increased substance use.  In addition, social and workplace norms around drinking and drug use can also contribute to the problem. Some work environments are more permissive that others and it has been found that perceived acceptability of drinking by coworkers is one of the strongest predictors of drinking behaviour. In some industries such as the food and beverage service industry, alcohol is easy to acquire right on the job, making it easier to consume. Therefore the normative belief that it’s okay to have a drink while at work, coupled with the easy access to alcohol can make it extremely likely that an employee in a bar or restaurant will consume alcohol while on the job. If the employee works every day, it can become a daily habit that can ultimately lead to it’s misuse and possibly abuse.

Another important contributing factor is the issue of employee stress. Stress can come from various sources including physical hazards or heavy workloads, tight deadlines, low job security and workplace conflict. These factors can lead to an employee feeling little or no control over what happens at work. Jobs that offer very little control, combined with increasing demands, can place the employee at risk for substance use as the alcohol or drugs may be the employee’s form of coping with the demands and stress of the work environment. Therefore employers should be aware of possible stressful situations and should emphasize work/life balance with employees.

What to do?

It is important to note that not all employees working in high risk occupations will go on to develop an addiction. Instead, it is likely that a combination of several causes, including construction-workerindividual factors such as genetics, social, cultural, and mental health issues, places an employee at greater risk for developing a substance use problem. In order to minimize this risk, it helps if employers are aware of the common signs of substance abuse and receive adequate training in how to approach an employee that might need help.

It is also important to establish clear organizational policies about substance use in the workplace. Employees need to have clear expectations about workplace rules and repercussions that would follow should an employee choose to break those rules. Employers should also be aware of how the work environment or job features may lead to maladaptive coping or other unwanted behaviours such as drinking alcohol or using drugs. This knowledge could shape the workplace culture such that employees feel empowered to approach a supervisor when concerned or taking some time to rest and recover when feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

So pay attention to the signs.  Try to minimize stress, isolation and fatigue. Work on creating a culture where health and self-care are more important than drinking and using.