Drug-taking workers cost the US 500 million working days a year

Drug-abusing workers cost the US economy more than $250bn (£143bn) each year, including about 500 million lost working days.

The US Department of Labor said employees who abuse drugs and alcohol have 66% more absences and file more compensation claims than non-abusers. They are involved in about half of all workplace accidents and use 300% more health benefits than other employees. The department estimates that up to nine million workers in the US are drug misusers.

The National Institutes of Health reports that 44% of abusers have sold drugs to other employees, and 18% have stolen from co-workers to support their habit.

Abuse remains highest among younger workers and those in construction (16%), machine operators and inspectors (14%), transport (13%), food preparation and waiting staff (12%).

The American Management Association said workplace drug testing has grown by more than 1,200% since 1987, when the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act was introduced. It requires companies receiving federal contracts or grants to provide drug-free workplaces, and encourages employers to create substance abuse policies and offer workplace training.

In the UK, between 11 million and 17 million working days are lost each year because of excessive drinking and this costs the economy as much as 1.8bn every year, according to Alcohol Concern.

A survey by the Portman Group – the organisation dedicated to promoting responsible drinking -revealed that 63% of employees phone in sick after getting drunk, rather than turn up for work.

The Health and Safety Executive says excessive drinking also leads to problems with lower productivity, lateness, workplace accidents, poor morale and bad behaviour.

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