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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Addiction: Life in a Bottle

Whether it’s alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, addiction’s grasp can be hard to shake -- but it’s possible, and it’s worth it.


This disregard for responsibility can be expensive for society. According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in 1995 alone, alcohol and drug abuse cost the economy an estimated $276.3 billion in decreased productivity, increased accidents, absenteeism, job turnover, and medical costs.

That figure could arguably swell once the cost for pain and suffering and other compulsive behaviors are factored in.

According to a review of studies by the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, up to 3% of the U.S. population is addicted to gambling, up to 3% with food, up to 8% with spending, and 5% to sex.

Some symptoms of addiction include:

  • A greater sense of isolation
  • Diminished social interaction
  • Reduced attention to personal hygiene
  • More legal difficulties
  • Change in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Increased irritability
  • Reluctance to change the compulsive behavior

In the workplace, the symptoms clearly manifest themselves. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that employees with substance abuse, when compared with non-addicted colleagues, were found more often to be late, be absent, use sick benefits, file for worker's compensation, and be involved in accidents.

For people who think they might have a problem with addiction, Brown recommends the following first steps of action:

  • Check in with your company's Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
  • Visit your primary health care provider for a screening and/or referral to a specialist.
  • Keep in mind that there are many resources for help with addiction, including mental health professionals, social workers, doctors specializing in addiction medicine, and private and not-for-profit programs.
  • Remember how you got involved in the addiction in the first place, and try to avoid places, things, and people associated with it.
  • If your job involves the activity that got you addicted in the first place, explore workplace alternatives.
  • Take things one day at a time.

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Reviewed on May 23, 2007

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