What are the economic consequences of drug abuse?


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Substance abuse is a significant public health problem in the United States. Talking about drug abuse people is complex and can be stigmatizing.

Negative public awareness can cause individuals to postpone seeking treatment and care options, making it difficult for people to get the help they need to recover from their abuse problems.

Cases of substance abuse are more common than you think – 22 million people suffer in the United States. Whether family member, friend, work colleague or child, the consequences of drug abuse are not only felt by the person who consumes drugs or alcohol.

Many organizations and nonprofits work tirelessly to conduct research, offer counseling and treatment options, and aim to make policy changes regarding substance abuse.

When someone experiences substance abuse, it affects every area of ​​their life, both personally and professionally. Stopping the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse is difficult in itself, but attempting to do so while employing or caring for children adds another hardship.

You may be wondering how drug abuse is affecting the economy. Before we dive into this topic, let’s define substance abuse, typical warning signs to look out for, and finally solutions that we can work towards for a drug-free future.

What is substance abuse?

Simply put, substance abuse is the excessive use of drugs, including, but not limited to, alcohol, pain relievers, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs. Some of the most commonly abused substances are:

  • alcohol
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants (cocaine, amphetamines)
  • marijuana
  • Hallucinogens (LSD)
  • nicotine

This list does not include all substances that people regularly consume. When people feel like they cannot go on with their day without using one of these substances, or experience withdrawal symptoms due to a lack of use, it is categorized as a substance abuse disorder.

People turn to drugs or alcohol for a variety of reasons. No single factor contributes to someone using drugs, but we can look at a few possible causes, which are divided into three categories:

  • Biological: A person’s genetic makeup accounts for half of the risk associated with substance abuse. Gender, ethnicity, and other mental disorders all play a role in influencing a person’s drug use.
  • Environment: The environment in which someone grew up has a decisive influence on them, be it family, friends or economic status.
  • Development: It is well known that the earlier drug use begins in a person’s development, the more likely they are to have a substance abuse disorder.

Regardless of how a person handles substances, the damage they can cause remains unchanged. Many people continue to use substances despite having a job and may appear impaired at work. Let’s talk about drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace and its effects.

Substance Abuse in the Workplace

A major concern of employers across the country is that workers come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

When workers are impaired, it can lead to significant productivity losses, increased risk of injury, problematic interactions with customers or clients, fighting and violence, and insubordination. These factors can reduce a company’s sales, which is another reason employers are prioritizing this concern.

It is important to understand that many people with substance abuse are employed. In 2013, the National Drug Use and Health Survey found that more than 70% of drug or alcohol users in the country who were 18 years of age or older were employed either full-time or part-time. The number is overwhelming and is forcing employers to address this issue regardless of the industry they are in.

Given how widespread drug abuse is, we need to consider the economic impact.

Industry costs

On an annual basis, the drug abuse industry is estimated to cost the drug abuse industry over $ 100 billion. Most of these costs arise directly from decreased productivity in the workplace and job losses. Some fees apply to medical treatment and recovery program costs.

Losses are mainly due to:

  • Reduced quality / amount of work
  • Absences and sick days
  • Early retirement
  • Injuries in the workplace
  • Claims for damages by employees
  • illness
  • Health insurance claims

If an employee’s substance abuse goes untreated, it can cost the economy between $ 2,600 and $ 13,000 per employee. When employers devote more resources to treatment programs and healthcare costs, they have less leeway for other areas of the business.

public safety

If substances become widespread, it is likely to become a public safety issue. Reducing crime and illicit drug trafficking is a public law enforcement priority. Like supply and demand, more resources will be needed to try to stop the epidemic if substance abuse continues.

Take the War on Drugs campaign, for example. There has been and is still pressure on the federal government to reduce illicit drug sales and guidelines have been put in place to try to control substances on the street. Some have argued that there should be tougher laws for DUIs as well.

It is no secret that drugs and alcohol are hazardous substances and, if misused, can harm both the individual user and everyone around them. The dangers of drinking and driving and the possible harm or death of others due to impairment are a major public safety issue. More resources are being devoted to finding solutions, which is another economic consequence of substance use.

Solutions to drug abuse in the workplace

Because of the scale of this problem, it is difficult to find appropriate solutions to drug abuse, especially in the workplace. Many companies across the country are already using prevention programs, training, and mandatory drug testing.

Substance abuse has serious economic consequences, which is one reason employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). EAPS offers a multitude of advantages, be it professional advice for employees or the possibility of calling hotlines in emergencies.

Implementing educational programs is one possible solution to this problem, but measuring their effectiveness can be challenging. How can we be sure that these programs are preventing or alleviating the problem of substance abuse?

Understanding addiction as a disorder rather than a personality trait of an individual is critical to finding solutions. More scientific research is needed to help experts find ways to prevent addiction from entering someone’s life.

Groups like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provide resources for people affected by substance abuse. Both organizations focus on research to understand the nuances of substance abuse and what can be done to prevent it.

Put an end to substance abuse

In the United States, it is common to know someone who is negatively influenced by drugs or alcohol. Addiction cannot be taken lightly, especially if you employ and work with people with an addiction disorder. Different institutions and industries must work together to put an end to this epidemic.


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