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Workplace Substance Abuse

Know The Signs

Substance abuse is a common diagnosis in our society. Statistics Canada reports that 1 in 10 Canadians report symptoms consistent with substance dependency.


The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse reports that substance abuse and addictions cost the Canadian economy $24.3 billion dollars in lost productivity. Add in the costs of substance dependency beyond lost productivity such as increased healthcare, cost of police involvement and workplace issues, higher workplace turnover and the associated costs of recruitment and training for replacement workers, and that number increases to $39.8 billion.


A person diagnosed with substance abuse develops tolerance to the substance they are abusing and have withdrawal episodes. They have the awareness of their behaviors of the abuse but cannot stop or control them. Other recognizable behaviors of possible substance abuse and dependency are withdrawal from family and social interaction and activities. The abuse interferes and significantly disturbs and interrupts relationships both socially and professionally. A significant amount of time is spent on using the substance.

Diagnosis of substance abuse and dependency is made only by a medically trained physician and psychiatrist where the appropriate management and medical treatment will be given by the doctor.

Getting Help

Employees who have been deemed to have a potential substance abuse issue or addiction should be referred to a third party Substance Abuse Professional or SAP. SAP’s are specialized workers who are trained to identify, diagnose and recommend treatment for employees suffering from  substance abuse issues.


Addictions are recognized in Canada as a protected disability, and employers are required to ensure employees jobs are protected in the event they must be on leave from work to attend a treatment facility for their addictions counselling.  Treatment facilities are generally at the cost to the employee , however many weekly indemnity plans including employment insurance will provide supplementary wages for employees who must be away from work while attending treatment.

We often think of substance use in terms of addiction or dependence, but the use of alcohol and other drugs can fall anywhere on a spectrum and, at any point, may impact workplace performance and safety.

Speak to your BenefitLink Partner to assist you in creating policies and programs that support your company’s philosophy and foster an environment of safety and disclosure.