Addiction is the plague of the modern day. Addiction is rampant in modern society, particularly America. Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. Not only are countless lives and families ruined, but businesses and the economy are greatly affected. Addictions can take many forms; smoking, alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex, pornography, internet, video games, shopping, exercising, intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, pyromania, spiritual obsession, pain, cutting and work. So what is the cost of addiction and how can we manage it?


Addiction costs the US economy over $600 billion per year. Much of this is shouldered by US businesses. There is lost productivity, increased accidents and injuries, increased worker’s compensation claims, higher insurance premiums, potential lawsuits, higher unexcused absences from work, stressful and dangerous work environment and higher employee turnover.


How do you detect addiction in employees? They frequently become irritable, are prone to absenteeism and their productivity drops. They have unexplained or unauthorized absences from work, frequent tardiness, excessive use of sick leave, patterns of absence such as the day after payday or frequent Monday and Friday absences and frequent unplanned absences due to “emergencies”. There is missed deadlines, faulty analysis, carless, sloppy or incomplete work, failure to meet quotas and many excuses. There are strained relationships with co-workers, belligerent, argumentative or short-tempered toward others, especially in the mornings or after weekends and holidays, becoming a “loner” and noticeable financial problems, evidenced by borrowing money from the business, other employees or receiving phone calls at work from creditors or collection companies. Their physical appearance could include the smell of alcohol including on the breath, staggering or unsteady gait, bloodshot or glassy eyes, mood and behavior changes, extreme mood swings, excessive use of mouthwash or breath mints, avoidance of supervisory contact, especially after lunch or breaks, tremors, noticeable exhaustion, sleeping at work, anxiety, excessive sweating and paranoia.


So how do we deal with addiction in the workplace? Employees who are addicted are not bad people who need to be good, they’re sick people who need to get well. Most of us have had problems of one kind or another that we are recovering from. We all deserve a second chance and the help we need. By addressing a decline in work performance, employees can be confronted in a non-accusatory way. From here, employers can highlight benefits such as employee assistance programs where trained professionals can diagnose and help your employees. Employee assistance programs offer short-term, confidential counseling services with the goal to help employees improve their mental and physical well-being. Employers who take an active interest in their employee’s welfare frequently have a healthier, more productive workforce. Companies that have instituted employee assistance programs have seen productivity increases of over 40% among employees who used the service.


Employers can refer employees with problems to inpatient treatment facilities, outpatient treatment programs, counseling services, 12 step recovery programs and support groups that deal with their specific issues. There are over 200 different 12 step programs addressing most types of addictions. Many churches offer recovery programs and support groups. Addiction treatment plans often include multiple forms of treatment for best results. Rehabilitation programs today are much more effective than those of the past. Specialists have learned that addiction is a complex condition that involves much more than physical or emotional dependence on the addiction and have designed programs that can be tailored to adapt to the specific needs of each individual. The goal is to help the individual mentally, physically and spiritually to restore a sense of self-worth for continued success. Effective treatment programs resolve an addict’s ability to manage their own lives and teach them methods for confronting stress, conflict or temptation without resorting to their addiction as a coping mechanism. These programs provide clients with life skills training, nutritional guidance and coping techniques. In many facilities, clients can choose faith-based, holistic or traditional approaches to treatment.


Employers can also mitigate problems by implementing formal drug and alcohol policies and random drug tests. Drug testing and educational programs have been proven to increase morale, decrease workplace accidents, reduce employee theft, increase productivity, reduce employee turnover and decrease cost of insurance and workman’s compensation. Employers can implement tobacco-free workplace policies and tobacco cessation programs encouraging tobacco users to quit and reduce employee’s exposure to second hand smoke. Employers can implement internet use policies along with filters on inappropriate sites in the workplace, electronic monitoring of internet use from office computers to detect problems and continuous employee and management training on effective use of office internet resources. Streamlining the way employees find the information they need from the internet can reduce the temptation to surf inappropriate sites.


Now you know the high cost of addiction and ways to address and mitigate it. Are you doing that? If not, it’s costing you and your employees. Please feel free to contact me if you or anyone you know needs help.






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