opiate addiction

Opiate Addiction In the Workplace: Treatment or Termination?

Opiate Addiction Treatment and the Workplace

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 22 million adults struggle with a substance use disorder. Alcoholism, opiate addiction, and other forms of substance abuse adversely affect the friends and family of the user. It is said that addiction is a family disease. Another group of individuals who feel the weight of addiction are the coworkers and employer of the person struggling.

According to a National Safety Council survey, only 19 percent of employers are prepared to properly deal with an employee addicted to alcohol or opioid / opiate medications. 25 percent stated that they were extremely unprepared. This is likely due to the 81 percent of employee drug policies being incomplete.

Firing Drug Addicted Workers

Let’s just look at opiate addiction for a minute.

So, what should employers do when they have an employee using opioids? A survey conducted on prescription drug use and employment states that 71 percent of employers believe that prescription drug abuse is a sign of addiction that requires treatment but 65 percent will fire an employee for their drug use rather than help them get addiction treatment for opiate addiction.

United States vs. United Kingdom

While the first reaction many US employers might have is to fire an addicted employee, across the pond, they take a different approach. According to a handbook produced by the HSE and Department of Health, termination is only used as a last resort. Dismissing employees in the UK due to work problems caused or related to drug abuse without attempting to help them first can result in the employer being charged for unfair dismissal.
Wow, maybe we can learn something from our UK friends. Employers there must encourage the employee to get the help he needs. Only when help is refused may termination take place.

Benefits of Supporting and Monitoring Opiate Addiction Treatment

Helping, rather than dismissing, an addicted employee can help businesses in several ways:

  • Help employers avoid the cost of recruiting and training another employee for the job (which is proven to be an enormous expense).
  • Make the workplace environment safer for all employees.
  • Increase accuracy, productivity and reduce sick day time off
  • Reduce overall turnover

In addition, treating drug addiction as a disease and offering employees treatment options can lead to better-sustained recovery rates than opioid addiction treatment initiated by family members or friends. In fact, a National Institutes of Health study concluded that pressure from the workplace could help people enter treatment sooner and adhere to treatment during recovery when they return to work.

Termination Makes the Cycle of Drug Addiction Worse

When terminated, employees are more likely to be met with anxiety and feelings of hopelessness, which are both conducive to the cycle of drug addiction. Termination isn’t the solution, and it can just make things worse. Instead of dismissing employees, getting them the help they need is a step in the right direction.

But then what?
Next, you need to have a policy in place that will determine how and when the employee can return to work after addiction treatment. With 81 percent of drug policies in the workplace incomplete, this is definitely one of the most important things you could be doing to foster healthy addiction recovery.

Setting Up An After-Treatment Policy

An after-treatment policy should include:

  • Information on when and how often drug testing will take place
  • Statements that indicate you understand that relapses may occur and what the repercussions will be
  • Training information to help employees identify drug use in the workplace

Helping addicted employees, rather than immediately terminating them for alcoholism or drug addiction can have a significant impact on whether they enter treatment. Instead of letting them go, do what you can to help, including encouraging treatment, providing time off and writing a drug policy that provides after-treatment guidelines.

If you have an employee struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism and you want to help them, give Gracious Care Recovery Solutions a call:

1 (855) 854-7223

To schedule a lunch workshop on addiction in the workplace (a good way to introduce a plan to help employees overcome drug addiction) send an email request to: robin@graciouscarerecovery.com

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