Do you have employees with addiction in your workplace?
Sunday, February 15, 2015
by Susan Day, MSW, LCSW, LCAC
Chances are high that you are working side by side with someone who is struggling with addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Or someone in your workforce is working to stay in recovery from use of chemicals. The hidden disease of addiction may go unnoticed because the typical employee may be using during time off, drinking on their lunch hour or perhaps misusing and abusing prescription medications while at work. Even though employees with addiction are among your workforce, no one may notice for years.
Unnoticed and unaddressed addiction in the workplace is a costly oversight. Statistics show that the productivity of someone using substances will likely be at 67%, leaving their coworkers to pick up the slack. In addition, because substance users often neglect health care needs, they tend to report to the emergency room more often or have additional undiagnosed chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. In the long run, chronic illness will cost your organization more in health care dollars. Finally, stress and depression as well as a full array of other mental health issues are co-occurring conditions with substance use. Alone, mental health issues can significantly impact our work life, but coupled with addiction and other health related consequences of use, financial implications to your company will escalate.
Is substance abuse a choice?
Can employers set policies and expect a person with addiction to comply? Policies are necessary but if there is a true addiction, a policy may deter, but not stop the employee from using. Research supports that addiction to substances is a complex, brain related illness and many have a family history of substance related concerns. However, family history is not the only indicator. For instance, the sooner a substance is introduced to a young, growing brain, the more likely it will result in a chronic addiction over the lifespan. It eventually will come to work with your employee.
So, why don’t companies address this issue?
According to the book, An Employer’s Guide to Workplace Substance Abuse: Strategies and Recommendations, employers state addiction goes unaddressed because they lack experience related to substance abuse and addiction and they do not know where to send people for treatment. In addition, HR staff are uncomfortable addressing the issues with an employee and they just do not have enough time to do what may be needed to help the employee. So, they admit to overlooking the issues.
How can companies begin to address this issue?
Educate managers in your organization on recognizing substance abuse in the workplace. Offer lunch and learns for the workforce on this issue. Have a company substance abuse policy which reflects drug screening and the option for treatment and recovery for employees. Know coverage options through your insurance policy for substance abuse treatment. Be proactive about safety sensitive duties by putting measures in place to catch any issue that may arise. Many companies offer employees the opportunity to come forward and share their needs for treatment.
Companies that are proactive regarding addiction in the workplace can lower healthcare costs and will see the benefits of improved employee health, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and less corporate liability.
About the Author
Susan Day is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor (LCAC) in the State of Indiana. She is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Social Work for both her bachelors and masters programs.
Susan is the Regional Relationship Manager at Fairbanks overseeing educational and business development opportunities related to Fairbanks, La Verna Lodge and Hope Academy. She has been employed at Fairbanks for over 13 years. She has practiced in both mental health and healthcare for over 25 years in roles such as an EAP and private practice therapist, medical social worker and discharge planner and has held clinical, leadership and management roles in these varied settings.
Susan is a torchbearer for the United Way, and volunteers at school, church and community events frequently. She is the secretray of the Board of the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of Use what you Got Prison Ministry. She serves on the Indiana State Task Force for Prescription Drug Abuse, and serves on the Human Services Department Curriculum Advisory Committee for Ivy Tech.
Susan is an also an adjunct professor for Ivy Tech – Indianapolis campus, teaching in the Human Services Department for students working toward an associate degree or bachelors in a helping profession.
Susan Day, MSW, LCSW, LCAC
Regional Relationship Manager
8102 Clearvista Parkway
Indianapolis, IN 46256