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Family Substance Abuse Affects American Workers

Employees Distracted, Less Productive


Updated August 21, 2008

More than one-third (36 percent) of employees admitted that at least one of their coworkers had been distracted, less productive, or missed work because of alcohol/drug abuse or addiction within their family, according to a new nationwide poll conducted by the Hazelden Foundation. And more than two-thirds of employees (69 percent) said that if a family member were struggling with alcohol or other drug problems, it would negatively affect their ability to concentrate and be productive at work.

In addition, one quarter (26 percent) of American employees surveyed reported actual drug/alcohol abuse or addiction within their family. Of these employees, 42 percent reported being distracted and less productive at work because of their family member's addiction.

"We've always known that substance abuse and addiction affect entire families, not just individuals, but this survey sheds new light on the repercussions for employers and workplace productivity," says Tom Galligan, Chief Market Development Officer for Hazelden. "The growing problem of presenteeism for many companies is fueled by substance abuse and untreated addiction in an employee's family."

"Given the deeply emotional and personal nature of family alcohol and drug abuse, it's easy to see how employees can take these problems to work with them," adds Galligan. "Even well-meaning employers don't always do enough to address addiction's far-reaching impact within their workforce. Fortunately, there are steps that every employer can take to address it.

The Hazelden findings about the impact of substance abuse and addiction on employed family members – not just on the addicted people themselves – are drawn from a new nationwide telephone survey of 1,190 employed individuals conducted in January 2005 for Hazelden by Ipsos-Worldwide. The margin of error is +/- 2.8 percent.

Addicted Family Members

Additional findings of this 2005 Hazelden "Making Recovery America's Business" Survey:

  • Of the employees with family substance abuse or addiction who reported being distracted or less productive at work because of it – 89 percent said their mind drifted away from work to thoughts of their addicted family member; 57 percent said they missed a deadline or work/attendance suffered; and 46 percent said they made errors in judgment that they normally would not have made. Most strikingly, one in seven (14 percent) said the addiction in their family made them forget safety or security procedures required by their job.

  • Of the 26 percent of employees that reported substance abuse or addiction in their family; 79 percent said it involved an immediate family member.

  • Nearly half (47 percent) of employees said they would use their company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to get help if they were struggling with abuse or addiction issues in their family. But one in five (19 percent) said they weren't sure if their employer even had an EAP; another 19 percent said their employer had no EAP function at all.

  • Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of employees surveyed said employers should offer counseling for family members of addicted individuals, not just to addicted people; 67 percent said that employers should provide better health insurance coverage that would pay more for treatment of drug addiction by family members; and 65 percent said employers should provide a more flexible work schedule so workers could tend to the treatment of an addicted family member.

Step Employers Can Take

With this new survey the Minnesota-based Hazelden Foundation continues its "Making Recovery America's Business" public awareness campaign, designed to help change the way businesses deal with alcohol and drug abuse and addiction.

Hazelden also introduced a new brochure, "Five Steps That Employers and Employees Can Take," via their web site and their toll-free number, 1-866-386-7646, that outlines suggestions for employers and employees dealing with addiction issues in the workplace.

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