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Research Center on Addictions Study








Mark A. de Bernardo



                        Fifteen percent of the American work force – or 19.2 million employees – have been hung over, drinking shortly before showing up at work, and/or drinking or impaired while at work at least once in the previous year, according to a recent study by the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (“RIA”).


                        RIA conducted its study of 2,085 employed adults under a grant from the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and its results were recently published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol


            Not surprisingly, the study found that young, unmarried males were the highest at-risk group, and were the group most likely to show up at work drunk or hung over.


                        It also found that employees who work on the evening or night shifts, and those employees with irregular work schedules, were much more likely to drink before coming to work, and subsequently to be drunk, impaired, or hung over on the job.


                        The RIA study also found job type to be a significant factor, with the highest rates of on-the-job alcohol use and impairment to be in the following occupations: management, sales, arts/entertainment/sports/media, food preparation and serving, and building and grounds maintenance.


                        You may be surprised to find out that “arts/entertainment/sports/media” is one occupational group.  However, it may not be surprising that it has a high rate of work-related alcohol abuse.


                        The RIA study found that, in the last year, of American workers:


        2.1 million – 1.7 percent – reported working under the influence of alcohol;


•        2.3 million – 1.8 percent – reported drinking within two hours of reporting to work;


•        8.9 million –  7.1 percent – reported drinking at least once during

         the workday; and


•        11.6 million – 9.2 percent – reported working with a hangover.


            Of those who drink during the workday, 14 percent reported they did so on a weekly basis, and 24 percent said they did so monthly.


           Of those who reported drinking proximate to the start of work (within two hours), 4 percent said they did so weekly, 25 percent said they did so at least monthly.


           “Alcohol is the most widely used and misused substance in the general population and in the work force,” said Professor Michael R. Frone, who headed up the study. “The misuse of alcohol by employed adults is an important social policy issue with the potential to undermine employee productivity and safety.”


            The 19.2 million American employees who abused alcohol in a work-related context within the last year contrasts with the 12.3 million American employees who engaged in illicit drug use in the last month (a figure from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [“HHS”] study reported in the Institute’s September 30, 2005 “Research & Study Update”).


            The HHS study reported that of the 51.9 million adult “binge drinkers” (five or more drinks on at least one occasion in the last 30 days), 41.2 million (79.3 percent) were employed either full- or part-time.


             Thus, HHS seems to identify a much bigger employee alcohol-abuse problem than RIA, but RIA ties it more directly to workplace impacts.


             If you have any questions or comments in this regard, please contact me at (703) 288-4300 (the Institute’s phone number), (703) 821-2189, or at debernam@jacksonlewis.com.  Warm regards.