How Employers Can Change the Problems of Addiction in the Workplace

Alcohol and drug use addictions in the workplace are wreaking havoc on American companies. Studies show that 20 million workers across the U.S. have reported alcohol-related impairment at work at least once in the past year. Drug abuse and addiction cost American companies $81 billion every year, with 1 in 25 Americans testing positive for illegal drugs in workplace test screens. In addition to the financial impact, these problems are affecting the morale and overall productivity in companies, and even accounting for 10% of workplace fatalities. But perhaps the most disturbing factor is that 75% of alcohol or illegal drug addiction cases remain undetected in the workplace, giving employers no indication to help their employees.

So, as an employer, what steps can you take to start changing these statistics? The first step is understanding how to recognize a problem that needs attention. Some common telltale signs of addiction in the workplace are when an employee:

  • Talks openly about money problems at work
  • Displays a decline in personal appearance or hygiene
  • Complains of failing relationships at home
  • Takes time off for vague illnesses or family problems
  • Disappears from the work premises for extended periods of time
  • Avoids coworkers and friends
  • Irrationally blames others for personal mistakes
  • Shows symptoms of withdrawal that seem to affect job performance
  • Demonstrates an inability to focus or concentrate
  • Takes needless risks that impact the company
  • Conducts sales of illegal drugs to coworkers or engages in other illicit activities

When you recognize the signs of addiction, it’s important that you approach the matter gently and carefully. Threatening to fire an employee will not help them recover from their addiction. Research your resources and consult your lawyer, as dealing with addiction can be legally tricky. Then, approach the employee as a friend and have a conversation. It’s important to offer them an effective treatment as an alternative to their current lifestyle, and it’s helpful to offer a treatment program that you already have in place.

Set up your business for success by proactively planning for abuse detection and treatment with structures such as:

  • Increased awareness and clarified expectations (EAPs)
  • Team awareness and peer-based prevention programs, including web-based programs
  • Regular Drug and Alcohol Screening tests
  • Addiction Treatment programs facilitated by or in the workplace

Help a returning or new employee re-enter the workplace in a way that encourages continual recovery, rehabilitation, and health. Remind them that they’re not alone and be part of helping them change their life. Set the example for office morale, open communication, and less stigma around abuse.As an employer, you can also help employees on the other side of an addiction. Returning to work after addiction treatment – whether it’s to a job held previously or a new workplace – is a challenge for the employee, due to stress around the stigma of abuse. Help a returning or new employee re-enter the workplace in a way that encourages continual recovery, rehabilitation, and health. Remind them that they’re not alone and be part of helping them change their life. Set the example for office morale, open communication, and less stigma around abuse.

If you need an effective resource to help an employee, speak with our addiction recovery and rehab specialists: 877-526-7706

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