The Hidden Costs of Employee Substance Abuse: Why Drug Testing Makes Good Business Sense

Explore the financial toll of employee substance abuse, which costs businesses billions annually in lost productivity, turnover, and accidents. Substance abuse is a pervasive issue affecting safety and productivity across industries. Learn how drug testing programs, with options like urine, blood, or hair tests, reduce these hidden costs and enhance workplace safety and efficiency. Discover the benefits of drug testing, compliance with privacy laws, and practical steps for implementation. Empower your business to prevent substance abuse among employees, create a safe work environment, and protect your bottom line.
drug testing

With 16.5% of Americans with a substance abuse disorder, substance abuse among employees is a growing concern for businesses worldwide. Substance abuse can affect an employee’s productivity, safety, and overall well-being. This often leads to negative consequences for the business, such as increased absenteeism, turnover rates, and workplace accidents. As such, drug testing has become a critical tool for companies to ensure a safe and productive workplace.

This article will explore the hidden costs of employee substance abuse and why drug testing makes good business sense. We will discuss the benefits of drug testing and the different drug testing methods available. We will also discuss legal considerations and practical tips for companies looking to implement a drug testing program. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how drug testing can help prevent substance abuse among employees and the role it plays in creating a safe and productive workplace.

The Hidden Costs of Employee Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can cost employers thousands and even millions of dollars in lost productivity, employee turnover, and work-related accidents. Every occupation experiences some rate of substance abuse. Studies show that construction and service occupations have the highest rate of substance abuse problems among employees. 

Substance abuse can lead to increased absenteeism as employees may miss work due to illness, injury, or other related issues. For example, workers with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely to experience work-related injuries and accidents. Due to these drug abuse issues, these employees miss an additional two weeks of work on average compared to the general population. This can cause production delays, affect customer satisfaction, and increase the workload on other employees.

Employees who use drugs or engage in other substance abuse behaviors may experience a decline in productivity and job performance. One study in Canada revealed that the total cost of lost productivity due to substance abuse was $15.7 billion annually. Workers may struggle to concentrate, make mistakes, and miss deadlines, leading to delays and decreased output. 

Additionally, substance abuse can lead to higher turnover rates as employees who engage in substance abuse may have difficulty maintaining employment. Workers with substance abuse are more likely to have more than one employer in the past year, indicating that they frequently change jobs. Replacing these workers can add up to 50% of the employee’s salary

Overall, substance abuse among employees can have significant (not-so) hidden costs that can impact the success of a business. By implementing a drug testing program and addressing substance abuse issues, companies can reduce these costs and create a safe and productive work environment for all employees.

Drug Testing as a Solution

Drug testing may be a solution to substance abuse in the workplace. One study by the SHRM Foundation found that introducing a drug testing program reduced the rate of workplace injuries from 14% to 6%. The purpose of a drug testing program is to identify employees who use drugs or engage in other substance abuse behaviors and to deter employees from using drugs. A drug testing program can help create a safe and productive work environment by reducing the risk of workplace accidents and injuries caused by substance abuse.

The benefits of a drug testing program are numerous. Here are a few examples.


  • Increased safety: A drug testing program can help identify and help (or remove) employees who struggle with substance abuse, thus creating a safer workplace.
  • Improved productivity: By removing employees who habitually use drugs, a drug testing program can help ensure that all employees are productive and contribute to the business’s success.
  • Reduced absenteeism and turnover: These programs can help reduce these rates by identifying and removing employees who engage in substance abuse.
  • Health and well-being: By identifying and addressing substance abuse issues, a drug testing program can help improve the health and well-being of employees.

Overall, a drug testing program can benefit both employees and the business by creating a safe and productive work environment and improving the health and well-being of employees.

Addressing Employee Privacy Concerns

Employees may feel that the testing process is invading their privacy, or they may worry about the confidentiality of their results. Companies need to address these concerns and ensure that their drug testing program complies with all applicable laws and regulations. For example, companies should provide clear information about their drug testing policy and procedures to employees and ensure that employees understand their rights and responsibilities. Companies must also ensure the privacy and confidentiality of employees’ test results, such as using secure testing facilities and limiting access to test results to authorized personnel only. By addressing privacy concerns, companies can help ensure that their drug testing program is effective and well-received by employees.

Implementing a Drug Testing Program

Implementing a drug testing program in the workplace requires careful planning and execution, but the work is well worth it. Below are the steps to follow when implementing an effective drug testing program:

  1. Identify the program’s purpose. This may include increased safety, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and promotion of a healthy work environment. This is also a good time to note measures of success, such as injury rates, absenteeism, and retention.
  2. Develop a drug testing policy. Develop a clear and concise drug testing policy that outlines the program’s purpose, procedures, and consequences of a positive test result. Ensure that the policy is compliant with relevant laws and regulations.
  3. Choose the type of drug test. Determine which type of drug test will be used, such as urine, blood, or hair tests. Be sure to consider the cost of the test and your testing policy’s stance on invasiveness.
  4. Educate employees. Educate employees about the drug testing policy and procedures. Include the types of drugs that will be tested and the consequences of a positive test result. Be sure to field any questions and concerns they may have.
  5. Implement the drug testing program. Conduct tests per the established policy and ensure all employees are treated equally.
  6. Maintain accurate records. Maintain accurate records of drug testing results and keep them confidential. Ensure that only authorized personnel have access to the results.
  7. Evaluate the program. Regularly evaluate the drug testing program to determine its effectiveness in achieving its goals and objectives. Analyze your measures of success and make necessary adjustments to improve the program’s outcomes.

By following these steps, companies can successfully implement a drug testing program that promotes a safe and healthy work environment while respecting employees’ rights and privacy.

How Can We Help?

Work Health Solutions offers comprehensive healthcare solutions for your medical needs. Our qualified team treats patients and employers alike and always provides top-quality service. We back our quality service with years of experience working with academic and research institutions, corporate healthcare, Fortune 25 companies, small governments, and local businesses. Reach out today with any questions about how we can assist you!

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Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

  • Former Naval Flight Surgeon, exemplifying his expertise in aerospace medicine and commitment to military health.
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Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

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Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

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Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

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