63% of lost productivity costs ($20.0 Billion) due to alcohol and tobacco
Substance use costs Canadian society $46 billion a year (2017), or $1,258 for every person in Canada. The lost productivity portion of that bill is calculated to be over $20 billion, a number that employers can view as a reference point for the costs they will incur in addition to what the taxpayer is responsible for.
Alcohol and tobacco continue to cost the Canadian economy more than all other substances combined. According to the study, 63% of lost productivity costs were attributable to alcohol and tobacco, representing a staggering 338,555 potential years of productive life lost. For employers valuing well trained and experienced workers, the lost productivity is substantial. The study also found that cocaine and methamphetamine use is increasing. This data comes from Canadian Substance Use Costs and Harms 2015–2017, a 2020 report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR). The data, while recent, is considered by experts to have changed considerably by 2020 – 2021 with the social isolation of COVID-19. In the pandemic context, these numbers will increase as sales of drugs and alcohol have soared to record numbers under the stress of lockdowns.
“Alcohol and tobacco use contributed 89% of the 277,060 hospital admissions and 76% of the 751,356 years of life lost due to substance use in 2017. Policies around alcohol in particular have been relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic with evidence of increased consumption. Costs and harms will likely have increased also as a result. More effective policies are urgently required in order to achieve effective harm reduction for these two widely used legal substances.” Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of CISUR and a principal investigator for the study.
These important numbers along with the significant human tragedy that substance use brings underscore the value of training and educating workforces. The investment of workplace alcohol and drug training not only promotes the necessity of safe and productive operations, it also can help to identify and manage an individual’s substance use issues before they become part of these alarming statistics.