Contributor: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS writer for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope.
Substance abuse is common, and the costs of substance abuse are high for employers. Of the 20 million adults classified as having problems with substance dependence or abuse in 2007, approximately 12 million (60%) were employed full time (retrieved 3/18/16).
In addition to higher absenteeism and lower job productivity and performance, substance abuse also leads to greater health care expenses for injuries and illnesses. It is imperative that employers understand addiction, its prevalence of substance abuse among workers, and the costs related to substance abuse.
Treating Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is treatable, particularly when it is addressed as a chronic disease. Reducing employee substance abuse can help employers improve productivity, reduce workplace injuries, and decrease health care costs. Employees with substance abuse issues can often fail to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home. They may use substances in situations where it is physically hazardous (e.g. driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use).
They may have recurrent substance-related legal or financial problems and continue to use substances despite persistent social or interpersonal problems that are a result of the substance use.
Understanding Employer Support Treatment Options
It is important for employees to understand what their options are for treatment with substance abuse/use. First employees need to see what their employer’s stance is on substance abuse. Typically, employers support drug-free workplace and substance abuse policies. They can also provide education on substance abuse and information regarding the health risks of alcohol and drug abuse.
Employers often offer health and wellness incentives for employees that stay drug and alcohol free, and engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors. Employers offer health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance use disorders, including aftercare and counseling.
Employee Assistance Programs and Work/Life programs provide education, screening and follow-up services for employees’ drug and alcohol problems. Employers may not know who among their employees is in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse. If company officials have this information, however, they must recognize and appreciate the delicate balance between wanting to help, and respecting an employee’s need and desire for privacy.
Most large employers offer access to employee assistance programs (EAPs) that have professionals who provide information, resources, referrals and counseling on issues such as substance use, mental health, stress, work and family problems, and a range of related concerns. EAPs help employers address a variety of employee problems and proactively deal with workplace issues that can lead to workplace violence, physical and mental health issues and/or declining morale among employees.
Coupled with health benefits, these programs play a vital role in encouraging employee wellness while reducing substance use and other health risks. Employers can assist in making treatment as successful as possible by offering comprehensive health plan benefits that support a broad range of services. Individuals who receive treatment for addiction typically show improved long term outcomes, recovery, lower rate of relapse, and improved long term health.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What type of support and assistance have you found your employer has for employees suffering from drug and alcohol addiction?
About the Author: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS is a specialist in the eating disorder field. Libby has been treating eating disorders for 10 years within the St. Louis area, and enjoys working with individuals of all ages.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 24, 2016