What is Workplace Wellness? Cartoons & Stats 5 Random Wellness Stats Glossary

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Substance Abuse: Alcohol, Prescription, and Illicit Drugs

21% of Canadian workers are either binge drinkers or heavy drinkers, 14% have used marijuana in the past year, and another 1% is addicted to either prescription or illegal drugs

 21% of the population are considered heavy drinkers or binge drinkers - Stats Canada
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Substance abuse costs to Canadian society are rising: $40 billion per year (2002), or $1,267 per Canadian (up from $18.45 billion in 1992) ..Alcohol, tobacco and drug use accounted for 20% of acute care hospital days - Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

According to the stats:

  • 3 million Canadians are moderate-risk drinkers, in need of brief intervention
  • Over 500,000 high or highest-risk drinkers and more than 300,000 moderate to high-risk users of illicit drugs (excluding cannabis) are in need of brief counselling and monitoring or referral to treatment

Drinking on the job, hangovers, self-medicating, and withdrawal all have detrimental effects on performance. Substance abuse affects the bottom line in various ways including: absenteeism and illness, diminished capacity on the job (also known as presenteeism), accidents and mishaps, illegal activities in the workplace (selling or procuring drugs onsite), lower morale, and coworker conflict.

Substance abuse by family members or friends also tends to weigh heavily on employees, and information and programs that help them deal with these issues is critically important.

Substance abuse can be a downward spiral. For instance, drinking leads to depression, which can lead to more drinking. Disappointment with their own inability to kick whatever the habit on their own also contributes to the spiral through loss of self-esteem and a sense no self-control.

Dealing With Substance Abuse in the Workplace

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) defines workplace substance abuse as the use of a potentially impairing substance to the point that it adversely affects performance or safety at work, either directly through intoxication or hangover, or indirectly through social or health problems.

Managers need to be able to correctly identify the signs of substance abuse, plus know how to broach the topic while maintaining confidentiality and sensitivity.

Employers also need to recognize that there are ways the job can contribute to substance abuse as well. Feelings of low control over ones job, lack of job satisfaction, boredom, overwork, isolation, high stress all can lead susceptible people to start or accelerate their substance abuse.

To find out more about substance abuse in the workplace and ways you can help reduce your EAP and healthcare costs, contact us.


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