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Employee Drug Rehab

According to Narcotics Anonymous, 77 percent of an estimated 20 million American substance abusers maintain some form of employment and are active in the workforce. As the effects of alcohol and drug abuse are known to impair a person’s judgment and coordination, productivity within the workforce is greatly affected by substance abuse behaviors.

These numbers have given employers a lot to think about in terms of how to retain good employees and help those who struggle with substance abuse issues. If you’re wondering whether an alcohol or drug abuse issue may be affecting your employment status, you may be surprised to know that many employers will accommodate workers who make a genuine effort to participate in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Substance Abuse in the Workplace

Within every country, alcohol by itself is the most accessible and frequently abused substance. Add to this the young age at which teenagers are exposed and the often misguided media portrayals of heavy drinking as being “grown-up” or “cool,” and it’s really no surprise that alcohol has such an impact within the workforce. Drops in productivity levels inevitably affect a business’s profit margins, so employers and governments have made an effort to address the issue of substance abuse in the workforce.

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Alcohol and drug use by employees occurs more often in certain industries than others. The areas most impacted include legal occupations, building and grounds workers, and people who work in food preparation and serving. The U.S. Department of Labor cites as much as 17 percent of the food and services workforce consumes alcohol and/or drugs on a frequent basis. Among construction workers, as many as 14 percent are regular drug users while 16 percent consume large quantities of alcohol on a regular basis. A high incidence of alcohol consumption was also found among installation and repair personnel as well as among people who work in the arts and entertainment industries.

Telltale Signs

As an employee within a company, your employer has certain performance expectations attached to your job role. Employers can determine an employee’s effectiveness by his ability to fulfill a job’s responsibilities. In the same manner, employees who exhibit patterns that impair their job effectiveness may likely draw negative attention from their employer. Over time, ongoing alcohol and drug use will begin to negatively affect your work performance so it’s best if you can spot the known telltale signs of substance abuse before your employer does.

The most common telltale signs of substance abuse in the workforce include:

  • Frequent absences
  • Careless or sloppy work performance
  • Calling in sick on a regular basis
  • Arguing with or confronting coworkers on a frequent basis

These actions tend to develop into a pattern of behavior rather than occur on an infrequent basis. If you find yourself calling in sick or missing work every Monday or Friday due to excessive drinking or drug use the night before, this is most likely a telltale sign that substance abuse is affecting your work performance. It won’t be long before your employer addresses the matter if they haven’t already. Depending on your workplace policies on drug and alcohol use, you might be able to get help for a substance abuse problem through your employer’s human resources department.

*Alcohol Effects in the Workplace

Narcotics Anonymous has compiled a list of the effects employee alcohol addictions have in the workplace. As alcohol takes a toll on worker performance, some of the effects observed include:

  • Absentee rates are four to eight times higher for alcohol-addicted employees than non-addicted employees
  • Increased number of workplace accidents
  • Lost worker productivity
  • Increased number of medical claim filings
  • Overall company costs run somewhere between $33 billion to $68 billion a year

Employee Assistance Programs

As workplaces began to instate alcohol-free and drug-free policies, the U.S. Department of Labor joined in the effort to help reduce the effects of addiction in the workplace. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) grew out of these efforts to help employees overcome addiction problems. Prior to these efforts, employers would either terminate an employee or monitor and limit the likelihood of any potential problems caused by an employee’s condition. While this approach may have helped employees keep their jobs, it did little to address their underlying addiction problems.

An employer may house an EAP division within their human resource department or contract with an EAP vendor to provide services for employees. Since alcohol and drug addictions are classified as medical conditions, federal health laws require EAP representatives to keep all information regarding an employee’s condition confidential. If you’re considering entering a rehabilitation program and need to take a leave of absence, an EAP representative can help you make whatever work schedule arrangements are needed.

Working with an Employee Assistance Program involves following a treatment plan agreement, which is developed during a series of counseling sessions with a representative. The counseling sessions allow EAP representatives the chance to assess your condition and make the needed referrals for treatment. A treatment plan agreement includes a timeline for completion and spells out the conditions of your work schedule, be it a modified schedule or leave of absence.

Rehabilitation Options

Alcohol and drug rehabilitation options can vary depending on the level of treatment needed to help you get back to a normal, productive lifestyle. An EAP rep will base this decision on the information you provide during the initial counseling sessions. The most commonly used rehabilitation options include inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, therapy and 12-step programs (AA or NA). For some people, a combination of two or more options may be necessary.

Inpatient treatment will require you to stay in a treatment facility, most often for a minimum of 30 days. These facilities work best for someone who has a long-term addiction that requires an initial detoxification period. During this time, patients undergo therapy to help address whatever life issues contribute to the addiction. Patients also learn coping skills to help them avoid using alcohol or drugs. Inpatient stays are typically followed up by outpatient treatment. This involves checking in with treatment professionals on a regular basis and attending 12-step programs on a frequent basis.

If you’re at the early stages of an addiction, the EAP representative may refer you to an outpatient program at the start. During the early stages, the physical effects of addiction haven’t reached the point where your life is spinning out of control. As long as you’re determined to stop using, outpatient treatment involving therapy sessions and regular 12-step meetings can help you recover from an addiction.

* Treatment Trends

Many alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers report their admission and discharge rates on a national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, also known as SAMHSA. Based on survey information collected in 2008 and 2009, alcohol and drug treatment trends show:

  • 9.3 percent of the US population had an addiction to alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Only 11.2 percent of this group actually received treatment from a rehab facility
  • 1.8 million admissions to treatment facilities were reported in 2008
  • 41.4 percent of the 1.8 million admissions resulted from alcohol addiction
  • 20 percent of the 1.8 million admissions resulted from heroine and opiate addictions
  • 17 percent of the 1.8 million admissions resulted from marijuana addictions

Leaves of Absence

As drug rehabilitation treatment can take considerable chunks of time out of a person’s daily schedule, working with an employer’s EAP allows you to coordinate your treatment schedule with your work schedule without placing your job at risk. For people who require inpatient treatment, this provision can mean the difference between keeping a job and losing a job. In some cases, outpatient treatment programs may require patients to attend therapy and 12-step meetings on a frequent basis throughout the week. Knowing your employer’s EAP program can accommodate this schedule can also provide relief from worry about losing your job.

An EAP representative can also refer you to a treatment program that offers partial hospitalization as opposed to inpatient care. Partial hospitalization is used in cases where an employee requires more treatment than an outpatient program provides. With a partial hospitalization program, patients attend therapy and 12-step meetings during the day and return home at night. This course of treatment may actually require a shortened leave of absence from work, which is something an EAP can accommodate.

Other Considerations

An employer’s EAP representative may refer you to an outpatient treatment program based on your need for treatment as well as other factors that affect your situation. As inpatient programs can be quite expensive, some employees may not be able to afford the costs involved, especially if their health insurance only covers a portion, or in some cases, none of the costs. An EAP rep may also make an outpatient program referral in cases where an employee has a supportive family environment that will ensure the employee follows through on the requirements of the program.

Ultimately, the level of structure a person needs to get addictive behaviors under control will determine whether an inpatient or outpatient treatment approach is needed. This means some people may prefer to maintain a work schedule while attending therapy and 12-step meetings, as work provides the kind of structure they need. As different situations call for different courses of treatment, the more an employer EAP representative knows about you, the more likely you’ll receive the type of treatment you need.

If you prefer to not discuss your treatment with your employer in any way, including with an EAP representative, you can opt for a private outpatient treatment program that offers a modified schedule. With these programs, you may be able to continue your normal work schedule while seeking treatment.