Cost of Addiction In The Workplace

Cost of Addiction In The Workplace

Cost of addiction in the workplace: Due to lost productivity the cost of addiction in the workplace is $15.7 billion according to the latest data available from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.  That is over 40% of the overall costs to the Canadian economy.

Addiction costs the Canadian economy nearly $40 billion each year, according to a 2016 Conference Board of Canada report. It is linked to workplace absenteeism, lost productivity, on-the-job accidents and injuries, as well as workplace violence and harassment – in some cases. workplace theft.

How Many Canadians Suffer From Addiction?

If you refer to the diagram above, you will see that the costs of substance use on productivity are higher than the costs to healthcare and criminal justice. Employers need to be aware of this! They need to have policies in place and ensure that all their employees understand their policies. They also need to have benefits that include short-term disability and coverage for addiction treatment because if you look at the statistics, over 20 million people in Canada are battling addiction. That will spill over into the workplace. If you would like to read the latest detailed statistics on addiction by the federal government click here.

Employers Need To Have Substance Use Policies In Place To Address The Cost of Addiction In The Workplace

A Review of Workplace Substance Use Policies by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that “Supportive measures, such as treatment options, support services, accommodation options, education and prevention, were absent or addressed to a much lesser extent in policies. Substance use policies require a balance between employer and employee needs, which includes balancing disciplinary and supportive measures.”

Add in the costs of substance dependency beyond lost productivity such as increased costs to healthcare, cost of police involvement and higher workplace turnover along with the associated costs of recruitment and training for replacement workers, and that number increases to $39.8 billion.

Warning Signs of a Potential Dependency Issue

    •  Increase in casual absences, especially on Mondays & Fridays
    • Extended lunch breaks
    • Long absences from the workstation
    • Consistently late arrivals to work or early departures
    • Falling productivity or missed deadlines
    • Presenteeism occurs when ongoing physical or mental conditions prevent employees from being fully productive at work. In cases of presenteeism, team members want to give their best efforts but cannot deliver because of health issues or personal problems.
    • Difficulty with task focus or concentration
    • Stories of family discord or dysfunction
    • Change in appearance
    • Changes in attitude like increased irritability
    • Increased accidents at or away from work, errors in judgment.

How Should Employers Respond To Employees With Addictions?

Substance abuse is recognized under employment law as a disability, and accordingly, employers need to assist and accommodate these employees before terminating their employment. As a result, many employers struggle with the extent to which they must accommodate these employees. In Canada, employment law requires accommodation “to the extent of undue hardship.”

Cost of Addiction In The Workplace: Educate Employees

Having information available in your human resources department is a great start, but hosting a Lunch & Learn and inviting a guest speaker to educate your employees is an even better way to start the conversation about addiction and help fight the stigma surrounding addiction so that the people who need help will feel more comfortable admitting so. Addiction is recognized as a mental health disorder, it is a disease, therefore it needs to be talked about and treated without judgment. Remember, there are a lot of us who have experienced it!

The good news is that we have speakers from Aurora Recovery Centre who will come to your business and host lunch and learns about addiction.  To book a ‘Lunch and Learn’ contact our Outpatient Services at our Winnipeg office by phone at 204.202.1221 est. 103 or email

Selected Key Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment

    • No single treatment is appropriate for every person or type of addiction
    • Treatment needs to be accessible and available when needed — the earlier addictions are treated, the better the outcomes
    • Treatment must address more than just the substance dependency and must focus on associated medical, psychological, social, occupational and legal issues. Sensitivity must be given to age, gender, ethnic and cultural considerations.
    • Remaining in treatment for an appropriate amount of time — determined by individual needs — is critical to success.
    • Treatment plans require continual assessment and adjustment to meet the changing needs of the person facing dependency issues over time.
    • Integrated, concurrent treatment for mental illness and dependency is necessary when applicable.
    • Treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective.
    • Medically assisted detoxification is only the first stage of addiction treatment and by itself does little to change long-term drug abuse.
    • Individuals in treatment must be monitored for relapses.

Adapted from: Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide, NIDA, revised 2009.