Skip to Main Content Health Care Professionals Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit Search

Alcohol and Substance Misuse

The misuse of alcohol and other drugs can have a large negative impact on an employee’s health, as well as a negative effect on their performance and safety within the workplace.

It has been found that employers pay an extra $597 per year for each employee who consumes too much alcohol1 and that approximately $7.1 billion of productivity is lost due to alcohol misuse and $4.7 billion of productivity is lost due to drug misuse2

Problems also associated with alcohol and substance misuse include:

  • increased staff turnover
  • more accidents
  • higher absenteeism
  • increased workers compensation, sick benefits and insurance claims
  • loss of productivity and human potential
  • low quality products and services
  • higher incidence of theft and trafficking
  • unreliability

Alcohol Misuse

There are a number of factors that can influence or promote alcohol consumption and the workplace, such as:

  • Workplace culture: the use of alcohol at work related parties or meetings, employees who drink together, the workplace and employer’s attitude towards consuming alcohol in the workplace3
  • Availability of alcohol: employees are more likely to consume alcohol, be less productive, and become absent when alcohol is available or near the workplace
  • Workplace policies: employees are more likely to consume alcohol at work when there are no enforced alcohol policies
  • Work Stress: work stress (such as heavy workloads, physically demanding work, boredom and isolation) can increase employees’ alcohol consumption4

Excessive alcohol consumption can affect an employee’s:

  • motor coordination
  • perceptual abilities
  • physical and mental capacity
  • the ability to perform his or her job safely and productively

What can employers do?

  • develop and enforce a workplace alcohol policy
  • provide information (pamphlets, handouts) and presentations about alcohol consumption
  • encourage employees to follow low risk drinking guidelines
  • provide information and resources for healthy ways of coping with work stress (attach link to stress in the workplace page)

Substance Misuse

Many of the factors associated with alcohol misuse also apply to substance misuse. Some additional factors that may promote substance abuse in the workplace include:

  • low job satisfaction and morale
  • fatigue
  • repetitive tasks and duties
  • minimal supervision
  • shiftwork and having to stay awake during the night or try and sleep during the day5

Substance misuse can affect employees’ ability to properly function in the workplace according to the substance. For example:

  • marijuana contributes to impaired psychomotor performance, adverse effects on short term memory, and decreased attention
  • opiates misuse can contribute to mood changes, drowsiness, and slowed motor function
  • stimulants can impair judgement and decision making
  • amphetamines can cause sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and irritability5

What can employers do?

  • develop and enforce a workplace substance and/or drug policy
  • provide information (pamphlets, handouts) and presentations about substance misuse
  • provide information about, and encourage employees to seek assistance for substance misuse through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • provide information and resources for healthy ways of coping with work stress and shiftwork
  • be aware of signs and symptoms of substance misuse


  1. Lowe, G. (2002).The Dollars and Sense of Health Promotion. Canadian HR Reporter. Retrieved from
  2. Rehm, J. et al. (2006). The Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada 2002. Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Retrieved from
  3. Barrientos-Gutierrez, T., Gimeno, D., Mangione, T.W., Harrist, R.B., & Amick, B.C. (2007). Drinking Social Norms and Drinking Behaviours: a Multilevel Analysis of 137 Workgroups in 16 Worksites. Occupational Environmental Medicine, 64, 602-608.
  4. Fine, M., Akabas, S.H., & Bellinger, S. (1982). Cultures of drinking: A workplace perspective. National Association of Social Workers, 27, 436-440.
  5. Butler, B. (2012). Developing and Implementing Workplace Alcohol and Drug Policies. Barbara Butler and Associates Inc. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved from

Related Resources

Related Topics