Evidence shows there’s an ever greater number of workers today with some type of substance abuse problem. Thanks to many decades of issues with previous generations of workers, employers, and the legal system, we are seeing a rise in zero tolerance policies and stiff criminal penalties attached to substance abuse.
While those policies and laws are well-meaning, they can also backfire when they take aim at abusers who haven’t necessarily reached destructive points in their use of drugs or alcohol. What results can be career- and life-changing disciplinary action when someone is just on the cusp of escaping the clutches of their abuse.
And, it’s difficult to get away from work commitments to seek treatment. Saying “I need time off to go to drug rehab” is likely to land you all the time you need – by way of a pink slip.
That is a cruel irony. One of the reasons a person is seeking treatment is to try to hang on to a good job, and too often that pursuit of help actually accelerates the loss of the job. Abusers find themselves drawing the conclusion that there’s no way they can seek help while working, so they’ll just muddle through and seek help after inevitably getting fired. Of course, getting fired for drug abuse makes them highly unattractive to employers once they get clean, so they’re still out of work.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Outpatient treatment centers are now cropping up around the country. These facilities allow users to seek help with their addictions without exiting a positive career situation. This field is growing steadily in an economy where other industries are contracting.
One of the firms demonstrating this trend is Morningside Recovery in Southern California, which has the hallmarks of modern outpatient treatment needed for an on-the-job recovery. Its outpatient system permits patients to seek treatment when their schedule allows, while still maintaining outside activities. Their Malibu location is also a manageable distance from a large workforce.
Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be your only labor market. If you punch a clock in the Windy City, you can still find facilities nearby that follow the same model that Morningside recovery does. There are outpatient clinics coast to coast that can help you or your co-workers deal with chemical dependency issues.
Resolving Substance Abuse In The Workplace
Here are a few ways to help your employees find their way into a quality treatment program if you suspect they have an addiction problem:
1. Create A Favorable Atmosphere
Workers need to know that their problems are understood, and that they are supported as human beings. Consider implementing resolutions or other nonbinding philosophies in the workplace that acknowledge the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse, and then state the firm’s support for those struggling with those issues. People need to feel support.
2. Be General, And Be Protective
People also need to feel safe. It’s counterproductive to discuss substance abuse issues one-on-one if there has been no obvious problem with a worker. Instead, utilize staff meetings and training sessions to emphasize the firm’s desire to help workers. If employees make disparaging remarks about how they don’t want addicts working with them, express empathy with those views but reiterate how easy it can be to get hooked on drugs or alcohol, and note that the company supports those who need help.
3. Make Good On Your Promises
Once you’ve stuck your neck out with that last statement, you must follow through. While your policies may not allow for enough leave to permit a trip to a treatment center, do what you can with whatever latitude you have to help the worker maintain the job and the treatment.
Substance abuse is a thorny issue in the workplace. Balancing the safety of the addict and other workers – as well as the quality of the company’s products and services – with our need to support and help employees as human beings can create some real struggles. The availability and destigmatization of rehab is a key to resolving those issues.
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