Methods Used by The Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy to Calculate Company-Specific Business Costs of Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders are among the most common and costly health conditions affecting Americans: over 21 million adults meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence or illicit drug abuse or dependence. Yet, despite widespread public awareness of its scope of substance use problems in U.S. society, research shows that business leaders and policy makers remain largely in the dark about its heavy economic costs. Many businesses have not examined the costs of undetected and untreated substance use disorders on their bottom lines.

To help sharpen understanding of the business cost of substance use disorders, The Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy, a research center based at The George Washington University Medical Center, devised a calculator that shows how substance use disorders generate avoidable health care costs and reduce workforce productivity. The Substance Use Disorder Cost Calculator provides concrete, industry-specific information, grounded in research, about the impact of substance abuse and dependence on employed populations. The Substance Use Disorder Cost Calculator, first released for public use in November, 2009, estimates the business impact of the continuum of substance use problems — categorized here as alcohol abuse or dependence, or illicit drug abuse or dependence in 13 different industry categories. Specifically, it shows:

  • how common substance use disorders are in each sector
  • how many work days are lost due to substance use disorders
  • the extent of substance use -related hospital and emergency room visits of employees and their families
  • the costs of missed work days and health care of employees and their families

This document describes in detail the methods that The Center for Integrated Behavioral Health Policy uses to derive these estimates.


  • BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • NCQA National Committee on Quality Assurance
  • NHSDA National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
  • NSDUH National Survey on Drug Use and Health
  • SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • NIAAA National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism