April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Since 1987, the goal has been to raise awareness while reducing the stigma associated with alcohol use disorder (AUD) since stigma can stop people from seeking treatment.
Of course, it could be easy for company management to gloss over this topic, thinking that alcoholism is more of a personal or social issue rather than a workplace one. But this article will show you precisely why that's not the case.
Bottom line: Workplace initiatives, particularly workplace drug testing programs, can make a difference.
Below, we'll cover the following:
The definition of alcohol use disorder
Compelling stats on how AUD affects workplaces
How company drug testing programs can make a difference
Next steps if you want to create a program (or revisit an existing one)
What is alcohol use disorder (AUD)?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorder (AUD) "is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences."
According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 28.6 million adults ages 18 and older had AUD in the past year.
How does AUD affect the workplace?
Alcohol use disorder isn't an "after-hours" condition. It affects people 24/7, including when they work. And its effects can be detrimental not only to the person with AUD, but also to their coworkers and the business.
Consider these stats:
⮚ The workplace costs of AUD range from $33 billion to $68 billion per year [Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management]
⮚ Absenteeism is 4 to 8 times greater among those with AUD. [Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management]
⮚ AUD accounts for 500 million lost workdays each year. [Source: The Center for Workplace Mental Health.]
⮚ 15% of US working adults say that they have used alcohol before or during work. [Source: The Center for Workplace Mental Health.]
⮚ Every year, the typical worker misses three "work weeks" every year for illness, injury, or reasons other than vacation and holidays. Workers with substance use disorders, however, miss two more work weeks annually than their peers. Most of these extra days are associated with illness and injury. [Source: National Safety Council]
Can workplace alcohol and drug testing programs help?
The discussion section of this study says, "The workplace can often be the first point of prevention and intervention for individuals with AUD. Resources such as Employee Assistance Programs have been shown to be generally effective in improving workplace outcomes related to alcohol use."
We tend to agree. If a workplace alcohol and drug testing program is done right, it can offer many benefits. The definition of "done right," however, can and will vary depending on your organization and the types of roles you're hiring for.
But for other companies, especially small businesses, things are a bit murkier. Questions to consider...
⮚ Do you conduct only pre-employment drug testing? Remember, this sort of background check provides only one moment in time.
⮚ Do you conduct random drug testing? If yes, does the random drug testing apply to all employees or maybe just those working in positions where safety comes into play (like operating heavy machinery)?
⮚ Does the state you're operating in have any conditions around random drug testing?
⮚ Who's managing your drug testing program?
⮚ Do you have a written alcohol and drug testing policy that's easily accessible—and that you regularly revisit?
⮚ What's the protocol if an employee tests positive on a random drug test?
⮚ What about compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations?
And this is just the beginning of a long list of questions you need to carefully sort through. But the benefits of doing so can be huge—for the employees dealing with substance use disorder, for their co-workers, and for the company.
In fact, The Chicago Tribune reports, "It's in an employer's interest to be proactive. Employees are more likely to undergo treatment if it is initiated by an employer, and those in recovery become better workers . . . Each employee who recovers from a substance abuse disorder saves a company more than $3,200 a year."
Occupational Health & Safety has this to say about workplace drug testing: "In addition to promoting a safer, more productive workplace, it can help to decrease employee turnover and absenteeism, reduce employer risk, and lower workers' compensation incidence rates."
And remember that stat we cited earlier from the National Safety Council about all the workdays people miss when they're struggling with substance use disorders?
Well, the National Safety Council also says, "Workers in recovery (who have reported receiving substance use treatment in the past and have not had a substance use disorder within the last 12 months) miss the fewest days of any group – even the general workforce – at 10.9 days."
Next Step: Talk to a reputable drug screening partner.
This Alcohol Awareness Month, revisit your organization's approach to workplace drug testing. If you have a policy in place, review it. If you don't have a program or policy, reach out to a reputable alcohol and drug screening partner like Good Egg for help.
BONUS: We also recommend downloading our Ultimate Guide to Workplace Drug Testing. (It's free!)