Substance abuse costs Canadian employers $22.4 billion in lost productivity

Would you be able to spot the signs of substance abuse in your staff body?

Substance abuse costs Canadian employers $22.4 billion in lost productivity

The cost of substance abuse to the Canadian economy hit at a staggering $49.1 billion in 2020, according to data released this week from Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA).

For employers, the impact of substance abuse on an organization can be devastating – with the report estimating that lost productivity alone costs $589 per person. That culminates in a loss of $22.4 billion over one year.

“The fact that lost productivity was the leading category of costs shows that substance use is not just a healthcare issue,” says Dr. Adam Sherk, a scientist at CISUR and a researcher for the study. “Employers can support their employees by developing supportive substance use policies and investing in prevention, harm reduction and treatment programs.”

The main offender when it comes to substance abuse is alcohol, which accounts for more than 40% of the total loss at $19.7 billion. Opioids in Canada is also a major concern for employers, costing the economy  $7.1 billion in 2020 – 75% of which was lost productivity.

In a recent interview with HRDTV, Rich Jones, executive director of Heritage CARES, revealed that 26% of employees are either struggling with addition or “going home to active addiction”.

“Our estimates show not only how substance use affects the healthcare and criminal justice systems but also the ability of people in Canada to work and contribute to the economy,” says Emily Biggar, CCSA Research and Policy Analyst. “Initiatives across the spectrum of prevention, harm reduction and treatment are needed to improve the health and productivity of people in Canada.”

Spotting the signs of substance abuse can be tricky, especially in remote work. Commons indicators include;

  • Frequent absences
  • Changes in mood or behaviour
  • Missed deadlines
  • Financial problems
  • Declining physical hygiene

In Canada, employers have a duty to craft substance policies – both for in-office and remote work – something which came to the for under Bill 36.

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