The Hidden Cost of Substance Abuse in the UK Workplace


24th Apr 2019 Wellbeing

Over the years, dependency on drugs (legal/illegal) by people in the workforce has increased. This rise in substance abuse does not just affect the victim and impair job performance, but also costs employers in the UK billions of pounds annually due to inefficient job performance, workplace accidents and absenteeism/presenteeism. See this excellent infographic from Addiction Helper the UK’s Number 1 Addiction Resource site.


According to research, a large proportion of work-related accidents are instigated by workers under the influence of substances like alcohol, opiates and heroin. 60% of poor performance in the workplace and 40% of all accidents in the workplace are related to substance use/abuse.

70% of individuals who abuse drugs are employed full time. About 17% of the workforce in the UK is made up of illicit drug users, and each year, 3 million of these employees clock in at work under the influence of substance like narcotics, opiates and others. In addition, an estimated 24% of workers have drunk alcohol during work hours at least once in the past year and 15% of workers are occasionally drunk at work.

The UK economy loses £21 billion to alcohol abuse and £15 billion to drug abuse each year, and employers lose about £7.3 billion yearly due to lack of productivity as a result of the misuse of alcohol. 

When interviewed, 1 in every 10 small business employers disclosed that they had experienced an employee under the effect of drugs during work hours. Approximately 33% of employees admitted to having resumed work with a hangover; with 83% of hung-over workers admitting that the hangover affected their performance at work and 22% of them admitting to making mistakes.


These alarming statistics don’t tell the story of the pain and emotional impact that cannot be measured in numbers, and the stress caused to all parties as a result of thefts by the substance abuser, and the diversion of company funds that could be used for other things in the company.

The growing problem of substance use and abuse is one that needs to be tackled.

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