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Addiction is Hurting the U.S. Economy

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Addiction is Hurting the U.S. Economy

From the derailing of young lives to the monetary drain on the health care system, drug abuse is taking its toll in America.  As the drug epidemic continue to sweep the country, it is becoming more evident that addiction is hurting the U.S. economy in ways it never has in the past.

Chronic drug use eventually leads to physical and psychological incapacitation. Scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines substance addiction as a complex disease that change the normal functioning of the brain.  In fact, when left untreated, the changes caused by habitual drug use can be so pervasive that it drives compulsive and uncontrollable use of drugs and directly affect cognitive abilities. Addiction to drugs ultimately hinders optimum performance where focus and efficiency is required.

As the number of workers in America with a drug habit steadily increase, so does the annual loss to the economy. From a business stand point, this translates into absenteeism caused by missed days, on the job injuries and a tremendous loss of productivity caused by brain fog from employees being high, drunk or randomly leaving duties to get and or use.  Also, the substance abuse habit is an expensive one that encourage criminal activity such as stealing from an employer to pay for drugs.

Businesses most affected by drug related criminal activities include:  

  1. The food and beverage industry and retail stores where cash is handled by employees.
  2. Hospitals, pharmacies and other health care facilities where employees have hand-on access to drugs.  
  3. Factory and construction workers have a high incidence of injuries and pilferage of material that workers trade for drugs or money to purchase drugs.  

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reported that a disproportionate number of people are injured or killed every year as a result of drugs and alcohol abuse on the Job. According to the National Council on Alcoholism, there are innumerable other costs that are a direct result of increasing substance abuse by Americans including:

  • Need for additional insurance and workers’ compensation costs.
  • Cost of incarceration, Law enforcement and Legal fees
  • Drug and alcohol abuse treatment and aftercare
  • Support and annual costs to care for people injured in vehicular and on the job accident
  • Millions of emergency rooms visits due to alcohol poisoning and drug overdose
  • Additional security costs to monitor and prevent workplace theft.
  • Forensic Services
  • Funeral and burial expenses

In a study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse titled, “Economic Costs of Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Illness,” which resulted in an exhaustive analysis of economic and public health statistics, the cost was a staggering, $218.1 billion. Although it is difficult to accurately tabulate the true costs of drug abuse and addiction, the cumulative annual cost is estimated at $524 billion.

Combatting On-the-Job Drug Abuse

Today’s employers have no other recourse but to identify ways to combat the problem of employee drug and alcohol abuse. Many have already implemented policies to help limit the number of people with addiction that are hired as well as putting programs in place to help reduce the direct impact to productivity and financial drain caused by drug use on their businesses.  The NCADD also recommend the Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to address these challenges that provide:

  • Confidential short-term counseling
  • Assessment and referral to drug rehabilitation programs
  • Encourage participation in various health and wellness programs
  • Assistance for treatment of emotional and mental health problems as well as marital and family counseling.
  • Financial help for eligible dependent care concerns.

The EAP concept can be extremely beneficial if substance abuse problems are detected early and treatment can begin at the onset of a dependence on drugs or alcohol. Studies show, early treatment is more effective for halting the progression of the disease and less costly than treating long term addiction which often makes people unemployable.  

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