Alcohol and the Workplace

Alcohol and the Workplace

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Last night the club was hot and so were you, but this morning is a different story. Your head is pounding and you give the term “something the cat drug in” a whole new meaning. Aspirin, coffee and a shower might not be the cure-all for your wild night, but you still manage to make it to work. But should you have stayed home to recoup? Or was facing the blinding fluorescent lights of the office the better choice?

The Problem is Closer than You Think
Most people can agree that alcohol and work don’t mix, unless you’re a bartender. The surprising fact when it comes to alcohol abuse is that it is not the clinical alcoholics that cause the most problems for companies; it’s the social and light drinkers doing the most damage. New research by the University of California shows 87 percent of alcohol-related problems in the workplace are caused by light to moderate drinkers. The prime suspect of these problems? Hangovers.

Researchers say that while in a hungover state, a person’s ability to focus and concentrate is lowered. While some think they can focus just enough to get the work done, they’re actually more susceptible to making mistakes. While we’re inebriated, we can recognize our inability to function, whereas with a hangover, we think we’re hurting but sober, but actually the opposite is true: we aren’t fully aware, which leaves a gaping hole for errors.

The Costs of Alcohol in the Workplace
Another sobering fact? The cost to businesses due to alcohol abuse in the United States is the highest in the world. Measurable factors include absenteeism, loss of productivity, theft, health insurance claims, injuries and fatalities. Estimates by the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) place costs at $100 a year, while other studies show it to be as high as $148 billion.

The NCADI and The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) show these staggering (no pun intended) statistics that drug and alcohol users:

  • Use three times as many sick days
  • Are five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim
  • Are more likely to have worked for more than three employers in the past year
  • Are more likely to injure themselves and others

Alcohol just doesn’t affect the one who consumes the brew. The DOL reports that one in five workers have been put in danger or injured, and have had to work harder, or re-do work, due to another employee’s drinking.

Family members are also affected by another’s alcohol abuse. A study conducted by the Hazelden Foundation shows that 26 percent of American workers surveyed reported abuse within their family. Effects on family members range from “drifting away” or distracted thoughts, missing deadlines, attendance issues to errors in normal judgment — one in seven even say that a family member’s addiction made he or she forget safety or security procedures.

What to Do If There Is a Problem
Alcoholism is recognized today as a disease, affecting no particular race or group from the lowest paid worker to the CEO. It is important to know your company’s policy on alcohol abuse. Some are approved to do on-the-spot testing, while others can suspend an employee until further notice up to termination. In some industries such as the FAA or the DOT, you can lose your license or ability to be employed until you can show proof you have gone through rehab and counseling.

Many companies offer substance abuse help through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Help is not just available for the abuser, but to their family members as well.

If you or someone you know needs help, here are a few sources:

  • The National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Center 1-800-784-6776
  • American Council on Alcoholism (800) 527-5344
  • Alcohol Abuse and Crisis Intervention (800)-234-0246
  • Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, National Treatment Hotline 1-800-662-HELP
  • National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information 800-729-6686

Or if you’re a social drinker and you plan on attending one of Greater Cincinnati’s fine entertainment establishments, think about where you’ll be in the morning. Try only taking $20 cash into the bar with you, or for every alcoholic drink you have, drink a glass of water to match. If it’s the nightlife you like and not the liquor, go for virgin drinks or non-alcoholic beer. Have fun and enjoy yourself; just be safe and remember the repercussions come morning!