The Healing Place

Addiction in the Workplace

Addiction in the Workplace

It is pretty safe to say that most of us have been affected by addiction, whether directly or indirectly. Addiction does not happen in a vacuum and certainly has a collateral effect which damages everything in its destructive path.

There seems to be naiveté around how prevalent addiction is in the workplace. Most people would assume that the majority of addicts are unable to function within the day-to-day rigors of the workplace and live a somewhat “normal life”. This assumption is alarmingly incorrect. Studies tell us that nearly 70% of individuals with moderate to severe substance use disorders are working full-time and, at least from the outside, are functioning at a high level. The vast majority of this statistic is composed of people who have only faced minor consequences from their use and are able to keep up the façade of normalcy.

When serious issues arise and businesses lose employees, there are even more negative economic implications. Studies predict that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, it has an average cost of six to nine months’ salary. For instance, replacing an employee making $40,000 a year can easily cost a company $20,000-30,000 in recruiting and training expenses. Furthermore, studies on turnover and absenteeism tell us that those reporting illicit drug use in the last year were more than twice as likely to have worked for multiple employers in that time frame. According to Whitehouse.gov, there is an estimated $120 billion in lost productivity within the workplace itself. This is further backed by numbers which state that full-time workers who are current drug users are more likely to report missing two or more workdays in a month due to illness or injury and to also skip one or more day(s) in that very same period. These telling numbers still do not account for employees who are distracted by their young adult family members or significant others who are in crisis as a result of addiction. We know all too well that this is a very real and significant issue.

As staggering as some of these statistics may be, I am not factoring in the effect that addiction and lost productivity have on morale. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has stated that one out of every three employees are aware of the illegal selling of drugs in their workplace. This figure would definitely be a culture-killer in anyone’s work environment and create a sense of vulnerability and unsafety. I will go out on a limb and say that people do not report this to management because they are uncomfortable with someone they have grown close to potentially losing their means of making a living.

So what is the solution? Employers with successful Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) report improvements in morale and productivity while decreasing absenteeism, accidents, downtime, and turnover rates. These EAPs have an understanding outlook on the reality of our society and that drug and alcohol abuse is very real – and likely. Employees are comfortable approaching these purely confidential meetings to get the help they need for a child, significant other, or themselves. Employers with longstanding programs report better health status among employees and family members and even decreased use of overall medical benefits. Some companies have expanded this philosophy and even run specific programs for substance abusers.

To accomplish this feat, it is important that employers and EAPs have viable treatment options to refer employees to that meet the level of care needed. Obviously, if a professional recommends residential care, an employee may miss significant time away from work. I am of the belief that the modern company is empathetic of these problems and cares for their employee, so the individual getting the level of care needed is paramount to them. As discussed earlier, productivity and financial benefits accompany this. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, research has demonstrated that alcohol and drug treatment pays for itself.

To reach those addicted to may not be able to take six to nine months off of work and life to go through The Healing Place’s nationally-recognized recovery program, we have founded a new company, Recovery Louisville. In the Recovery Louisville network, we now have the ability to offer services that can fit this niche for employers. Our first facility, Recovery on Chestnut, offers short-term residential care to men, allowing employees to stay in contact with employers while in the program. Once a client completes the 30-day residential stay, there is the option of added monitoring and reporting. A similar facility for women is in the works.

We have also recently begun taking doing on-site group therapy and education classes for companies that feel like the need is important. We have the ability to come to employers at convenient times and facilitate these groups. For more information, call me at 502-333-9908 or send me an email. You can also visit us online at www.recoverylouisville.org.

The Healing Place is hosting a symposium on addiction in the workplace on October 20th at the Louisville Marriott East. Continuing Education Units and Continuing Medical Education Credits will be available. If you would like to be notified when registration is available, please e-mail events@thehealingplace.org.