Addiction and Employers

We all know that drug and alcohol addiction has reached epidemic proportions. The financial and emotional costs to families and loved ones is enormous. In addition, the cost to employers is escalating because of the epidemic’s impact on the workforce.

What can employers do?

Many business leaders have struggled with this question for years, but the time has now come for businesses to deal with addiction in as robust a manner as possible.

By Shayne Sundholm, CEO of Clean Recovery Centers

Why the problems persist

A good question is to ask yourself, “How successful has our current approach been in handling employees suffering from addiction?” If the current epidemic is any indication, the answer may be “not very well.”

I am certain there are businesses that are handling the issue of drug and alcohol addiction quite well. That said, I would guess that many firms are not doing as well as they would like to. Why? There are many reasons.

There is still a major stigma around drug and alcohol addiction. This stigma prevents many employees from letting their employers know they are not well and need help.

In addition, many employers and people in general have a very negative view of addiction. They believe it is a moral issue or a character flaw. But addiction is a chronic brain disease, plain and simple. Once a person is in the grips of their addiction, they have as much chance of getting well as cancer patients curing themselves.

 

Costly to business

Many businesses do not fully understand the costs associated with failing to effectively handle the addiction issue. An employee suffering from addiction is usually performing at a level that is subpar at best. The missed work and unproductive hours on the job are extremely costly to the firm.

Also, company moral can be impacted. The behavior of an employee in active addiction can be abhorrent and even dangerous.

 

Productivity takes a big hit

Let’s assume that 10% of the population suffers from some form of substance abuse. As a result, let’s also assume that 10% of your employees are suffering from some form of substance abuse. Can you afford to have 10% of your staff unproductive? What is this costing your business in terms of productivity, company moral and ongoing hospitalizations for addiction?

Company Employee Assistance Programs should include comprehensive plans of action for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. It is important that business leadership be involved in developing the plans and identifying resources to recommend to the suffering employee.

Treatment can be costly. But if it is not effective, addicts may end up relapsing chronically, further driving up company insurance premiums.

 

Identify good programs

Try to research, identify and recommend programs that have high success rates. By doing this, you will be doing the employee and the company an enormous favor in the mid to long term.

Finally, it is very important that companies do not enable the suffering employee. The employee must take responsibility for getting well and staying well. If they don’t, there should be consequences.

 

Line in the sand

Support the employee through the policies, procedures and programs the company has established. Make it clear to the individual that as long as they are willing to do what is required to get well and continue to do so, the company will support them.

If they are not willing to do this, the individual must understand that the company will not support them beyond a certain point. Drawing this line is only fair to the company and the rest of the employees.

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