Reports highlight the importance of workplace programs for addressing substance use disorders

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Two new reports highlight the importance of addressing the needs of people in the workplace who have substance use disorders. Two Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports show that while many employers have policies and programs addressing substance use disorders, many of the 10.8 million full-time workers with these problems may not be receiving help in the workplace.

Current illicit substance users comprise 9.5 percent of the nation’s full-time workforce.

SAMHSA’s report about workplace policies and programs on alcohol and drug use found that 81.4 percent of full-time workers aged 18-64 reported working for an employer with a written policy about alcohol and drug use. It also found that 59.5 percent of these full-time workers had access to employee assistance programs at work and that 44.7 percent had received educational materials about substance use from their employer.

Full-time workers using either alcohol or drugs were significantly less likely than other full-time workers to work for employers with employee assistance workplace programs or substance use policies. For example, only 31.5 percent of full-time workers who had used drugs in the past month, and 39.2 percent of full-time workers who had engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month, worked for an employer providing educational material about substance use.

Younger full-time workers, ages 18 to 25, were far less likely than other full-time workers to be provided with educational materials from their employer on substance use (34.7 percent), or to have access to employee assistance programs (37.9 percent).

SAMHSA’s other report which looked at the scope of substance use disorders among full-time workers also found that 3.3 million part-time workers (12 percent of the part-time workforce) had substance use disorders. In addition, the report found that 2.2 million unemployed Americans and 3.3 million Americans not in the labor force had substance use disorders.

“The safety and productivity of the American workplace depend on our nation’s ability to effectively address substance abuse issues among workers,” said SAMHSA’s Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “We all need to work together to better ensure that workplace programs addressing substance use problems are actively promoted and widely utilized.

In order to engage individuals with risky or unhealthy substance use, SAMHSA promotes the use of screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) in a wide variety of clinical settings.  Employee Assistance Programs, occupational health clinicians and clinics, and primary care programs can assist individuals who engage in high risk substance use by employing appropriate SBIRT strategies. Early identification of problems with subsequent intervention can promote health and save lives.

SAMHSA’s Workplace Policies and Programs Concerning Alcohol and Drug Use report is available at:

and SAMHSA’s 10.8 Million Full-Time Workers Have a Substance Use Disorder report is available at:

. Both SAMHSA reports are based on the combined findings of SAMHSA’s 2008 to 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health -- a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 70,000 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older.

For more information about SAMHSA please visit:


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

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