Date ArticleType
11/13/2017 Chamber News
Substance Abuse – A Real Problem with Real Costs to the Workplace

Written by Todd J. Tranum, President and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce &
Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier

The human toll of drug addiction has been devastating to families and communities across the United States. The American Society of Addiction Medicine reports that in 2015 there were 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance abuse disorder. In that same year drug overdose was the leading cause of accidental death. Opioids are the primary driver of the epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which was more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills. In addition to loss of lives and devastation to families and communities, addiction is costing employers through lost productivity and rising health care costs. The Pew Charitable Trusts estimate that illicit drugs have an annual economic impact on employers of $193 billion.

Our own community has felt the pain and loss associated with drug addiction. Drug addiction and substance abuse is impacting local businesses as well. We are in a situation where many employers are having challenges finding the workforce they need to fill jobs in their companies. Complicating the challenge is the drug epidemic. Although our organization does not collect specific data regarding drug testing in workplace, we can tell you that anecdotally employers have identified challenges filling job openings and maintaining workers because of failed drug tests. It is estimated that nationally, 9% of employees tested positive for one or more drugs in screenings performed in 2015. It is estimated that roughly half of employers across the United State perform drug screenings.

There is hope in overcoming this challenge. Fortunately here in our part of the world, we have many excellent organizations and people working on this problem. To hear from many of them and to learn more about how you can take action, we encourage you to attend ‘The Many Faces of Addiction; No One Cause, No One Solution’ this Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Jamestown Community College, Scharmann Theatre. This is a FREE community education forum being presented by the Health Care Action Team, The American Association of University Women and the Mental Health Association.

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