Workplace Policies and Programs Concerning Alcohol and Drug Use

In Brief
  • Combined 2008 to 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data indicate that 81.4 percent of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs use, 59.5 percent had access to an employee assistance program (EAP) at work, and 44.7 percent reported that their employer had given them educational materials regarding the use of alcohol and illicit drugs.
  • Full-time workers aged 18 to 64 who used illicit drugs in the past month were generally less likely than those who did not use illicit drugs in the past month to work for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs. Similarly, full-time workers who drank heavily in the past month were less likely than those who did not drink heavily to have an employer that provided these workplace policies and programs.
  • There were small but statistically significant increases in the percentage of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 reporting working for an employer who provided these workplace policies and programs between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012.

Workplace substance use policies and programs benefit both employers and employees. They promote the health and well-being of employees, while reducing behaviors that could negatively affect the quality of work and performance of employees.1 Substance use can result in lost productivity, workplace accidents and injuries, employee absenteeism, low morale, and increased illness.1 Studies also have indicated that employers vary in their responses to employees with substance use issues and that workplace-based employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be a valuable resource for obtaining help for substance-using workers.2,3

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) gathers information about substance use. NSDUH defines illicit drugs as marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, or prescription-type drugs used nonmedically. Heavy alcohol use is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on 5 or more days in the past 30 days. NSDUH respondents are also asked about three types of workplace policies and programs: (1) whether their employer has given them any educational materials regarding the use of alcohol and illicit drugs, (2) whether their workplace has a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs, and (3) whether they have access to any type of EAP or other type of counseling program through their workplace for employees who have alcohol- or drug-related problems.4

This report is one of several designed to update and expand upon information presented in Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Analytic Series A-29, Worker Substance Use and Workplace Policies and Programs, published in 2007.5 To enhance the statistical power and analytic capability and to ensure consistency in time frames across all of the updated reports, 5-year time periods were chosen. This issue of The NSDUH Report uses data from the combined 2008 to 2012 NSDUHs to present estimates of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 who worked for an employer who provided workplace policies and programs. Estimates are presented for all full-time workers, and comparisons are made between full-time workers who engaged in substance use and those who did not.6 The final section of this report presents comparisons of combined 2008 to 2012 data (hereafter "2008-2012 data") to combined 2003 to 2007 data (hereafter "2003-2007 data").


Workplace Policies and Programs

Combined 2008-2012 NSDUH data indicate that 81.4 percent of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs, and 59.5 percent had access to an EAP at work (Figure 1). An estimated 44.7 percent of full-time workers reported that their employer had given them educational materials regarding the use of alcohol and illicit drugs.

Figure 1. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Gender: Annual Averages, 2008-2012
This is a bar graph comparing workplace provides educational information, written policy, or employee assistance program concerning drug or alcohol use among full-time workers aged 18 to 64, by gender: annual averages, 2008-2012. Accessible table located below this figure.

Figure 1 Table. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Gender: Annual Averages, 2008-2012
Policy or Program Total Male Female
Educational Information* 44.7% 46.2% 42.8%
Written Policy* 81.4% 79.7% 83.6%
Employee Assistance Programs* 59.5% 57.8% 61.7%
*Difference between males and females is significant at the .05 level.
Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs), 2008 to 2010 (revised March 2012), and 2011 to 2012.

Female workers were more likely than male workers to report working for an employer who provided substance use programs and policies. Specifically, female workers were more likely to have worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs (83.6 vs. 79.7 percent) and to report access to an EAP at work (61.7 vs. 57.8 percent) (Figure 1). However, male workers were more likely than female workers to indicate that they had received educational information from their employer (46.2 vs. 42.8 percent).

Workers in the youngest age group were generally less likely than older workers to report working for an employer who provided substance use programs and policies. Specifically, workers aged 18 to 25 were less likely to have worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs than those aged 26 to 34 or those aged 35 to 49 (Figure 2). Compared with workers in the other age groups, those aged 18 to 25 were also less likely to have had access to an EAP at work. Across age groups, older workers were more likely than younger workers to report that their employer had given them educational information regarding substance use.

Figure 2. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Age Group: Annual Averages, 2008-2012
This is a bar graph comparing workplace provides educational information, written policy, or employee assistance program concerning drug or alcohol use among full-time workers aged 18 to 64, by age group: annual averages, 2008-2012. Accessible table located below this figure.

Figure 2 Table. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Age Group: Annual Averages, 2008-2012
Policy or Program Aged 18 to 25 Aged 26 to 34 Aged 35 to 49 Aged 50 to 64
Educational Information 34.7% 40.1% 46.9% 49.3%
Written Policy 80.1% 82.0% 82.2% 80.4%
Employee Assistance Programs 37.9% 55.2% 63.7% 64.9%
Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs), 2008 to 2010 (revised March 2012), and 2011 to 2012.


Workplace Policies and Programs, by Substance Use Status

Among full-time workers aged 18 to 64 who used illicit drugs in the past month, 73.5 percent worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs (Figure 3). Nearly one third (31.5 percent) with past month illicit drug use received educational information about alcohol and drug use from their employer, and 44.2 percent worked for an employer who maintained an EAP or other type of counseling program for employees who have an alcohol- or drug-related problem. Among workers who drank heavily in the past month, 77.8 percent worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs. In addition, 39.2 percent of those with past month heavy drinking worked for an employer who provided educational information about alcohol and drug use, and 53.1 percent worked for an employer who maintained an EAP.

Figure 3. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Past Month Illicit Drug Use and Past Month Heavy Alcohol Use: Annual Averages, 2008-2012
This is a bar graph comparing workplace provides educational information, written policy, or employee assistance program concerning drug or alcohol use among full-time workers aged 18 to 64, by past month illicit drug use and past month heavy alcohol use: annual averages, 2008-2012. Accessible table located below this figure.

Figure 3 Table. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Past Month Illicit Drug Use and Past Month Heavy Alcohol Use: Annual Averages, 2008-2012
Policy or Program Past Month Illicit Drug Use Past Month Heavy Alcohol Use
Yes No Yes No
Educational Information 31.5%* 46.0% 39.2%* 45.3%
Written Policy 73.5%* 82.1% 77.8%* 81.7%
Employee Assistance Programs 44.2%* 60.9% 53.1%* 60.1%
*Difference between users and nonusers is significant at the .05 level.
Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs), 2008 to 2010 (revised March 2012), and 2011 to 2012.

Full-time workers aged 18 to 64 who used illicit drugs in the past month were less likely to have worked for an employer who provided the three types of workplace policies and programs. Similarly, full-time workers who drank heavily in the past month were less likely to have worked for an employer who provided the three types of workplace policies and programs than those who did not drink heavily.


Trends in Workplace Policies and Programs

Comparisons between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012 NSDUH data show small but generally statistically significant increases in the percentage of employees who reported working for an employer who provided workplace policies and programs (Figure 4). The percentage of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 who worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs increased for workers in all age groups and for both male and female workers (see Table S1). In addition, among male full-time workers aged 18 to 64, there was a significant increase in reporting the provision of educational information or presence of an EAP.

Figure 4. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64: Annual Averages, 2003-2007 and 2008-2012
This is a bar graph comparing workplace provides educational information, written policy, or employee assistance program concerning drug or alcohol use among full-time workers aged 18 to 64: annual averages, 2003-2007 and 2008-2012. Accessible table located below this figure.

Figure 4 Table. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64: Annual Averages, 2003-2007 and 2008-2012
Policy or Program Annual Averages, 2003 to 2007 Annual Averages, 2008 to 2012
Educational Information* 43.1% 44.7%
Written Policy* 79.1% 81.4%
Employee Assistance Programs* 58.0% 59.5%
*Difference between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012 data is significant at the .05 level.
Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs), 2003 to 2005, 2006 to 2010 (revised March 2012), and 2011 to 2012.

Comparisons between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012 NSDUH data also show few statistically significant changes in workplace policies and programs among workers who use substances (see Table S2). Specifically, among full-time workers aged 18 to 64 who drank heavily in the past month, there was a small but statistically significant increase in the percentage who worked for an employer with a written policy about employee use of alcohol and drugs (75.0 to 77.8 percent); similarly, a parallel small but statistically significant increase was seen among those who used illicit drugs in the past month (70.3 to 73.5 percent). No changes were seen in the provision of educational information or presence of an EAP. In contrast, among full-time workers who did not use illicit drugs in the past month, there were small but statistically significant increases in the percentage who worked for an employer who provided the three types of workplace policies and programs. Among workers who had not drunk alcohol heavily in the past month, there were also small but significant increases in the percentages of those who worked for an employer that provided these programs and policies between the two time periods.


Discussion

Because substance use is a health risk for employees and can also be detrimental to employers, reducing alcohol and illicit drug use is a health goal for many employers. The findings in this report suggest that the percentage of full-time workers who worked for employers who provided substance use-related policies and programs has improved slightly. However, workers aged 18 to 25 were less likely to be aware of the EAP at their workplace than older workers, even though adults aged 18 to 25 have higher substance use rates than older adults.7 Given the lifetime health and economic burden from illicit drug and alcohol use,8,9 this report illustrates the need for ongoing efforts to promote workplace-based substance use policies and programs and to monitor changes in awareness of these programs by employees over time. For more information about drug-free workplace programs, visit http://www.workplace.samhsa.gov/.


End Notes
1 Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Drug-Free Workplace Advisor. (2014). Workplace impact. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/elaws/asp/drugfree/drugs/employee/screen73.asp
2 Delaney, W., Grube, J. W., & Ames, G. M. (1998). Predicting likelihood of seeking help through the employee assistance program among salaried and union hourly employees. Addiction, 93(3), 399-410.
3 Reynolds, G. S., & Lehman, W. E. (2003). Levels of substance use and willingness to use the Employee Assistance Program. Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 30(2), 238-248.
4 Respondents with missing data or who responded "don't know" were excluded from analysis. For combined 2008-2012 data, 4.6 percent of respondents were excluded from the analysis of the educational information item, 3.7 percent were excluded from the written policy item, and 10.6 percent were excluded from the EAP item. For combined 2003-2007 data, the percentages excluded were 4.5, 3.8, and 9.9 percent, respectively.
5 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2007). Worker substance use and workplace policies and programs (Analytic Series A-29). Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/work2k7/work.pdf
6 Questions on illicit drug and alcohol use in NSDUH do not ask about use on the job; use could have occurred at any time or place in the past month.
7 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2013). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (HHS Publication No. SMA 13-4795, NSDUH Series H-46). Rockville MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
8 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2001, February). Substance abuse: The nation's number one health problem. Retrieved from http://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/reports/2001/rwjf13550
9 Cartwright, W. S. (2008). Economic costs of drug abuse: financial, cost of illness, and services. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 34(2), 224-233.



Suggested Citation
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (August 7, 2014). The NSDUH Report: Workplace Policies and Programs Concerning Alcohol and Drug Use. Rockville, MD.

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.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is an annual survey sponsored by SAMHSA. The 2008 to 2012 data used in this report are based on information obtained from 111,500 adults aged 18 to 64 who were full-time workers; 2003 to 2007 data are based on information from 123,100 adults aged 18 to 64 who were full-time workers. The survey collects data by administering questionnaires to a representative sample of the population through face-to-face interviews at their place of residence.

The NSDUH Report is prepared by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ), SAMHSA, and by RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. (RTI International is a trade name of Research Triangle Institute.)

Information on the most recent NSDUH is available in the following publication:

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2013). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (HHS Publication No. SMA 13-4795, NSDUH Series H-46). Rockville MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Also available online: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/.

NSDUH_169

Supporting Tables

Table S1. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Demographic Characteristics: Annual Averages, 2003-2007 and 2008-2012 (Supports Figure 1, 2, and 4)
Demographic Characteristic Combined 2003-2007 Combined 2008-2012
Number
(in thousands)
Percent Standard Error
of Percent
Number
(in thousands)
Percent Standard Error
of Percent
Educational Information            
Total 48,078 43.1% 0.25 48,261  44.7%* 0.26
Male 28,165 43.6% 0.32 28,499  46.2%* 0.35
Female 19,913 42.3% 0.35 19,761 42.8% 0.37
Aged 18 to 25   4,782 32.7% 0.27   4,383  34.7%* 0.32
Aged 26 to 34   9,118 38.6% 0.44   9,193  40.1%* 0.46
Aged 35 to 49 20,802 46.1% 0.36 19,215 46.9% 0.38
Aged 50 to 64 13,376 47.4% 0.64 15,469  49.3%* 0.62
Written Policy            
Total 88,842 79.1% 0.19 88,646  81.4%* 0.21
Male 50,026 76.7% 0.27 49,743  79.7%* 0.29
Female 38,816 82.3% 0.27 38,903  83.6%* 0.27
Aged 18 to 25 11,254 77.1% 0.26 10,052  80.1%* 0.27
Aged 26 to 34 18,900 79.9% 0.36 18,844  82.0%* 0.39
Aged 35 to 49 36,599 80.3% 0.28 34,146  82.2%* 0.29
Aged 50 to 64 22,090 77.5% 0.53 25,604  80.4%* 0.50
Employee Assistance Program            
Total 60,994 58.0% 0.25 60,116  59.5%* 0.28
Male 34,356 56.2% 0.33 33,481  57.8%* 0.36
Female 26,638 60.4% 0.36 26,636  61.7%* 0.39
Aged 18 to 25   5,048 38.8% 0.32   4,213  37.9%* 0.35
Aged 26 to 34 12,052 55.0% 0.48 11,545 55.2% 0.51
Aged 35 to 49 26,931 62.6% 0.35 24,744  63.7%* 0.39
Aged 50 to 64 16,962 62.2% 0.61 19,614  64.9%* 0.60
Note: Numbers for each category may not sum to total due to rounding.
*Difference between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012 data is significant at the .05 level.
Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs), 2003 to 2005, 2006 to 2010 (revised March 2012), and 2011 to 2012.

Table S2. Workplace Provides Educational Information, Written Policy, or Employee Assistance Program Concerning Drug or Alcohol Use among Full-Time Workers Aged 18 to 64, by Past Month Illicit Drug Use and Past Month Heavy Alcohol Use: Annual Averages, 2003-2007 and 2008-2012 (Supports Figure 3)
Demographic Characteristic Combined 2003-2007 Combined 2008-2012
Number
(in thousands)
Percent Standard Error
of Percent
Number
(in thousands)
Percent Standard Error
of Percent
Educational Information            
Past Month Illicit Drug Usea   3,007 31.2% 0.66   2,948 31.5% 0.67
No Past Month Illicit Drug Usea 45,071 44.2% 0.26 45,313  46.0%* 0.28
Past Month Heavy Alcohol Useb   3,765 37.5% 0.69   3,735 39.2% 0.74
No Past Month Heavy Alcohol Useb 44,314 43.7% 0.26 44,526  45.3%* 0.28
Written Policy            
Past Month Illicit Drug Usea   6,711 70.3% 0.66   6,852  73.5%* 0.71
No Past Month Illicit Drug Usea 82,131 79.9% 0.20 81,794  82.1%* 0.22
Past Month Heavy Alcohol Useb   7,555 75.0% 0.60   7,409  77.8%* 0.65
No Past Month Heavy Alcohol Useb 81,288 79.5% 0.20 81,237  81.7%* 0.22
Employee Assistance Program            
Past Month Illicit Drug Usea   3,964 44.3% 0.75   3,821 44.2% 0.79
No Past Month Illicit Drug Usea 57,030 59.2% 0.26 56,295  60.9%* 0.29
Past Month Heavy Alcohol Useb   4,867 51.9% 0.73   4,698 53.1% 0.81
No Past Month Heavy Alcohol Useb 56,126 58.6% 0.26 55,418  60.1%* 0.29
* Difference between 2003-2007 and 2008-2012 data is significant at the .05 level.
a Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics used nonmedically.
b Heavy alcohol use is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days.
Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUHs), 2003 to 2005, 2006 to 2010 (revised March 2012), and 2011 to 2012.