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The cost of addiction

Between 3% and 5% of work absence is caused by alcohol consumption. Lost productivity due to alcohol use costs the UK economy more than £7 billion each year.

This means the effects of overconsumption of alcohol are often felt in the workplace. It also means that the workplace can be a good place to help people identify alcohol problems and overcome them.


Employers are finding that drugs and alcohol can affect their organisations in a number of ways.

Punctuality/Absenteeism – employees who arrive late or not at all following a night out

Long term sickness – those who require treatment for dependence

Performance – employees still hung-over from the night before

Erratic behaviour – those who drink or use drugs at work to get themselves through the day

Accidents and Incidents – worst case, involving other parties or the public

Support for recovery

Many organisations now have policies on testing, particularly organisations involved in safety critical industries such as transport, logistics or engineering. Lapses of concentration where employee or public safety is at risk can potentially be fatal.

However, having a policy on its own only identifies the problem, it doesn’t necessarily solve it. Organisations with a zero tolerance approach to substance misuse will drive the problem underground.

Employers who encourage employees with problems to come forward, and who offer assistance through access to treatment, are more likely to retain key staff. This makes both moral and business sense, as it is usually more cost effective to invest in treatment than to re-recruit and train a new employee. A supportive policy will also reduce the risk of accidents which have unquantifiable implications for financial performance and human life.

Supporting your colleague/employee through their alcohol or drug problem doesn’t end when they enter a rehab clinic. One of the most critical phases is the transition back into the working environment and the support offered to them by their managers.

Dr Mike McCann, Occupational Health Physician and board member of Castle Craig rehab clinic, describes this as: “The one point which I feel is often left out”.

It is essential that employers understand that alcohol and drug addiction are ‘relapsing’ conditions; this means that a proportion of those who undergo rehab successfully will relapse back into their use of alcohol or drugs. However, relapse can and does happen, and the individual must know that they can approach management safely and confidently should relapse occur.

More and more companies are hiring recovery coaches as they recognise the profound impact these coaches can have in recovery. Companies are working with recovery coaches to support employees back into work, that critical phase of the transition back into the working environment.

Sanitas Hub is researching ways it can support employers and employees in the workplace, would you or your organisation be interested in recovery coaching, please contact us with your thoughts?

For further inquiries, company group training or mental health consultancy please do not hesitate to get in touch at 

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