How Employers Can Support Employees Struggling With Addiction

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By: SUPE Editorial Team

There is a significant amount of stigma surrounding people who are addicted and who are in recovery from addiction. There is also a common misconception that anyone addicted to drugs or alcohol is homeless or unemployed. This can lead to employers believing they will not confront substance use in the workplace.

Substance use and addiction are more common in offices and job sites than most people realize. Studies have shown that roughly 75% of people who are in the age range of 18 to 64 and who have a substance use disorder are members of the workforce. In addition, 78% with alcohol addiction are employed.

Employers should be prepared to help employees who struggle with addiction. Otherwise, they can soon find themselves without a workforce.

How Employers Can Support Their Employees

Icon used to represent reducing the stigma

Reduce Stigma

The first step that any employer can take is to reduce the stigma surrounding substance use and recovery. When addiction is stigmatized and viewed as a moral failing, employees will tend to keep their addiction a secret instead of reaching out for help. Studies have shown that when people feel stigmatized for being in recovery, they have lower self-esteem and fewer resources for sustaining recovery. Reducing some of the stigma surrounding addiction goes a long way in creating a supportive work environment.

Icon used to represent providing support

Provide Support

The second step should include providing treatment and support. There are significant benefits to Employee Assistance Programs and having access to counselors and addiction treatment professionals. Smaller employers may wish to provide access to external EAP programs.

Icon used to represent providing training

Provide Training

Finally, it is critical to provide training to management, human resources, and staff. Prevention and education programs are beneficial and should offer information about addiction, drugs, and recovery. It should also provide data about stigma and how employees can help another employee who is struggling. Human resources and management staff need to be knowledgeable about the laws surrounding employee substance use. It is critical to have clear policies regarding how drug and alcohol use is dealt with in the workplace.

The Impact of Substance Use on the Workplace

Drug and alcohol addiction is costly for employers. Studies have shown that workers with addiction miss 50% more work than those without. Drug and alcohol addiction is also associated with higher job turnover rates and healthcare costs. For example, for workers addicted to pain medication, the yearly costs rise to $5,586.

In contrast, workers in recovery from addiction are the least likely to leave their jobs and less likely than those with addictions to leave a job. In addition, workers in recovery or those who have received treatment at some point miss less work than the general population.

The Continued Legalization of Drugs

Certain substances are legal in many states, such as medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, hallucinogenic drugs, and alcohol. In addition, prescription pain medication, stimulants, and sedatives are commonly prescribed.

Most employers have a zero-tolerance policy for certain drugs, such as marijuana or alcohol. They may even have policies regarding particular narcotic prescription medications.

Using mind-altering substances on the job is generally not recommended, and most employers often assume employees leave their personal life at home. However, this is not always the case; whether it involves a prescription medication or not, most individuals begin using substances to deal with their problems.

Workplace drug policies should take into account legal drugs and prescribe medications.

Test Your Knowledge

Employers Supporting Employees with Addiction

The continued legalization and prescribing of drugs can make it difficult to manage employee drug use.

What is NOT an example of how employers can support their employees?

Studies have shown that workers with addiction miss 50% more work than those without.

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