Resuming a Career After Job Loss Due to Prescription Drug Abuse

Contributor:  by White Deer Run clinical team member Ryan Poling, M.A.

Doing homeworkBill has already done a lot of hard work. He recognized he had a prescription drug abuse problem and went to treatment, worked through a residential program, then a partial hospitalization program, and then an intensive outpatient program. Now that he has successfully completed his treatment, he finally has a sense that maybe, just maybe, he has finally beaten his prescription drug abuse problem.

However, Bill’s journey is in some ways only just beginning. Before he went into treatment, he worked as a plumber with a successful company, but an injury on the job put him in the hospital.

He was prescribed OxyContin for his ongoing pain, and he soon developed an addiction to the opioid painkiller. Bill started making mistakes at work, and ultimately lost his job.

Soon after losing his job, he sought treatment. Now that he is out of treatment and drug-free, Bill is wondering what comes next in his career.

Bill’s story is not unique, as many people who successfully complete treatment are not sure how to reenter the workforce. While reentry can sometimes be a challenge, there are some things you can do to ease your transition back into your career.

Know your rights after prescription drug abuse treatment

Business woman looking for a job after Prescription Drug AbuseThe Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has published a brochure detailing the rights of people who are in recovery from drug abuse. People who are trying to resume their careers after drug treatment are protected from many different forms of discrimination.

Because it severely impacts a person’s ability to function effectively, the Federal government may consider a prescription drug abuse problem to be a disability, and as a result, people recovering from drug abuse would be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This protects qualified individuals from being discriminated against because of a previous substance abuse problem, assuming they are able to fulfill the requirements of the job for which they are applying.

Be wise about disclosures

Smiling female student doing homework by laptop at cafeteria tableYou are not required to disclose a past history of substance abuse treatment. While a job can require you to take a drug test to ensure you are not presently taking drugs, the law prohibits employers from asking about your mental health or substance use history. Also, if you have a gap in your resume due to substance abuse treatment, you can label it “Illness and Recovery” or simply not draw attention to it at all.

Rebuild your professional network

If you were working closely with others in your industry at your former place of employment, it may be a worthwhile investment to attempt to repair some bridges with former coworkers. During your period of drug abuse, your coworkers may have felt a mix of sadness, frustration, or even betrayal.

Attempting to repair your relationships with them may be helpful in resuming your career with these individuals. In addition to the restorative effect it may have for your own recovery, rebuilding those relationships may provide networking opportunities to other jobs.

Create a support network after prescription drug abuse treatment

Teamwork. Hands shaking to stop Prescription Drug AbuseThe process of rebuilding one’s career works best in the company of others. Relationships with family and friends can be an invaluable source of support, and you may also want to consider attending 12-Step group meetings and continue outpatient treatment. Gathering a group of allies around you is one of the best ways to maximize your chance of successfully rejuvenating your life and career.

Consider alternate job options

Until you get your feet back under you, it may be helpful to think creatively about job options. Organizations such as America in Recovery or National H.I.R.E. Network provide work opportunities for people looking to rejoin the workforce after treatment.

While long-term employment is the ultimate goal, it can be helpful to start small with some short-term positions through a temp agency. These short-term positions may help you rebuild your confidence and will begin to fill out your resume. In some cases, they can even turn into full-time jobs. If you are looking to switch to another field, consider an apprenticeship or internship, and if you are the adventurous type, this may be the time to stretch your entrepreneurial legs.

Trying to reenter the workforce after prescription drug abuse treatment can be daunting, perhaps even more than treatment itself was. However, rebuilding one’s career, like any endeavor worth undertaking, will require endurance, patience, and perseverance. The most important thing you can do is stay motivated and remember that, with effort, it is absolutely possible to achieve success in the working world after treatment.

About the Author:

“Resuming a Career After Job Loss Due to Prescription Drug Abuse” was written by White Deer Run clinical team member Ryan Poling, M.A. Ryan has experience working clinically with a wide range of populations and presenting concerns. He is a clinical psychology doctoral candidate and has also earned Master’s degrees in psychology and theology. He was an adjunct professor of psychology at Azusa Pacific University from 2012 to 2015.

Site Description:

White Deer Run has been a leading provider of drug and alcohol treatment services for over 30 years. Spread over a number of sites in Pennsylvania, White Deer Run provides detoxification, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and transitional services for adolescents and adult men and women. White Deer Run welcomes clients with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

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 a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, 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.

Published on September 20, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 12, 2021
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.