Consumption of alcohol decreases accuracy, and where attention and skill are required a blood alcohol concentration as low as 0.01 g/l will increase the number of errors. Relatively small doses of alcohol also increase reflex time and impair judgement, thus increasing the possibility of accidents. Although alcoholism is widely known as a cause of problems in the workplace, it is less well recognized that alcoholism is strongly related to stress produced by the workplace. Alcoholics identify far more unmet expectations in their environment than non-alcoholics.
Only over the last 30 years has industry recognized the disastrous effects of alcohol on its workers and found that excessive drinkers have a higher rate of sickness absenteeism and a higher accident proneness (the risk increases 50% for a blood alcohol over 0.25 g/l), that their professional ability is impaired, and they age and die prematurely. The absence of a parallel between mental and physical disorders is frequent: there are cases where, although the physical damage has reached an advanced stage, mental and especially artistic faculties are apparently unaffected; conversely there are heavy drinkers whose physical strength seems undiminished and who continue to do very heavy muscular work. Nevertheless, modern industry demands such high psychosensory and mental capacities, and places such heavy responsibility on the individual, that the alcoholic's reduced physical and mental ability makes him less and less employable in industry. Sooner or later he is left behind and becomes a burden upon society.
In the USA it has been estimated that more than 2.5 million workers, namely 3% of the labour force, are alcoholics. The cost to industry in absenteeism, fringe benefits, loss of trained manpower, inefficiency, loss of production and accidents, is estimated to exceed US$ 2,000 million annually. In the UK, the cost to industry of alcohol-related sickness, absenteeism and deaths in 1987-8 was estimated at £800 million. While the cost of alcohol-related disabilities is very difficult to estimate, it is nevertheless clear that the costs which arise from its consumption by a fairly large proportion of the active population greatly exceed the returns which may result from alcohol in the form of employment, commercial profits and state taxes. The consumers ultimately pays for the cost of drugs in the workplace by buying inferior goods at higher prices.