Critical Lack of Substance Use Support For 72 Million U.S. Workers Revealed in New Pelago Research

Press Release
Substance use trend report 2023

(NEW YORK – June 6, 2023) — Pelago, formerly Quit Genius, the leading digital clinic partner to U.S. businesses and health plans for substance use management, today released its 2023 Annual State of Substance Use Management Trend Report. The inaugural report is based on a commissioned survey of 500 U.S. workers to determine the impact of substance and alcohol use in the workplace and the need for employer support to manage it.

While previous research has demonstrated the gravity of substance misuse, Pelago’s new survey findings confirm that substance use in the U.S. has reached a crisis point. In total, 46% of American workers – about 72 million, regardless of job function, location or employment type – having experienced personal or family problems involving substance or alcohol use. Despite nearly 2 in 3 workers believing that their employers should offer substance use management support, only 17% report having this benefit, and only 7% feel comfortable asking their employer for substance use help.

“There are millions of workers right now silently struggling with substance use that can’t get the support they need due to stigma or lack of benefits,” said Yusuf Sherwani, M.D., CEO and Co-founder of Pelago. “The costly and widespread nature of this problem across industries, occupations, and job categories indicates this is a pandemic-level issue, where today’s employers have a unique opportunity to be a part of the solution.”

New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research pegs the annual minimum cost of substance use disorders at $15,640 per affected employee enrolled in employer-sponsored insurance, totaling more than $35 billion. And that is just the minimum direct cost of SUDs. It does not include costs related to absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover or the costly health consequences and complications of undiagnosed SUDs, including pancreatitis, liver disease, cardiovascular issues, obesity, depression, and anxiety.

Though employers bear an outsized share of the financial cost of substance use, they also provide a highly efficient way to help their employees regain control of their lives. The previously mentioned CDC research recommends that employers develop workplace-supported prevention, treatment, and recovery programs in light of this crisis.

Key findings from the Pelago report include:

  • 46% of American workers (72 million) have experienced personal or family problems involving substance or alcohol use, with more than 1 in 3 workers reporting having a family member struggle with substance use.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. workers report missing work because of a personal substance or alcohol use problem, regardless of job category.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 (62%) workers believe their employer should offer support for substance or alcohol use management, yet only 17% report actually having this benefit.
  • Only 7% of workers feel they can go to their employers for help with substance use specifically, while less than half (43%) feel they can ask their employer for help in general.
  • 39% of workers believe that rehab is the only way to treat a substance use disorder and even fewer (25%) agree that there are effective medications to treat substance misuse.

“Substance use is widely misunderstood, but there is research to support that employers have an advantage in successfully initiating treatment rather than friends or family,” said Sherwani. “The time is now for employers to realize that they have a unique opportunity to offer their employees the right benefits and break the long-held stigmas around substance use that have kept many from getting the help they need.”

The full 2023 substance use management trend report is available for download here, or check out our survey highlights.

Pelago released the report in tandem with a name change from “Quit Genius.” The company’s new name, “Pelago,” is rooted in the word “archipelago,” better reflecting the ongoing journey of substance use management. Pelago the brand is a metaphor for the open sea and is meant to inspire a sense of support and connection, because no one should have to manage substance use in isolation. Read more about the rebrand story here.

About Pelago

Pelago, formerly Quit Genius, partners with enterprises as the leading virtual clinic for substance use management among their employees. We are transforming substance use support—from prevention to treatment—delivering education, management skills, and opportunities for positive change to members struggling with substance use, most commonly tobacco, alcohol, or opioids. Our solution gives employers the means to offer on-demand, personalized support to workers seeking to live healthier lives. Pelago’s cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs deliver convenient, accessible, and effective support that seamlessly integrates with health plans, pharmacy benefit managers, and wellness platforms. To date, Pelago has helped more than 750,000 members manage their substance use and improve their lives.

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