An employee — let’s call him Fred — used to be one of the most productive workers at the company. Now, he frequently blows deadlines, and when he turns in work, it is shoddy and riddled with errors. Fred has begun to neglect his appearance and hygiene. Plus, he has started to call out sick from work more frequently, especially on Fridays and around payday.
You suspect that Fred has developed a substance addiction, but that was confirmed when he overdosed on the job and had to be revived. Now you must act before he declines further, endangering himself, his fellow employees, and the reputation of the company.
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There are several benefits to sending Fred to drug rehabilitation. Plus, a professional intervention can be the most effective means to accomplishing that end.
Read on to find out what you should do if you suspect an employee has a substance abuse problem and how you can conduct a proper intervention to get them the help they need.
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Signs of Substance Abuse in the Workplace
Fred represents the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), about 70 percent of those people are employed.
Many companies have elected to terminate people who have succumbed to substance addiction, often under the charge of poor performance. This appears to be the most prudent response in that it swiftly excises that person from the company, minimizing the danger the individual poses to the bottom line.
Still, it is tricky to identify whether an employee has a substance abuse issue. There are, however, obvious signs that a person battling addiction can exhibit. They can include:
- Disheveled appearance
- Excessive tardiness and/or calling out sick frequently
- Making mistakes, missing deadlines, forgetfulness
- Falling asleep on the job
- Making excessive visits to the restroom
- Displaying mood swings
The signs of abuse and addiction are also revealed through a person’s behaviors and psychological symptoms. Those indicators can include:
- Acting lethargic, showing a lack of motivation
- Acting fearful, panicked, anxious, or paranoid without a clear cause
- Having angry outbursts or displaying bouts of rage
- Having strange, sudden, and/or surprising mood swings
- Displaying unusual bursts of energy
- Showing irritability or agitation
Ultimately, it is up to a particular company how it chooses to address the issue of employee substance abuse.
Considering the nature of addiction, the costs associated with hiring a new person, and the goodwill an employer can engender by aiding rather than firing an employee, there are many benefits that come with sending someone to rehab.
Benefits of Sending Someone to Rehab
Sending someone to a professional treatment program can save their life, especially if that person is battling an addiction to alcohol, opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, or benzodiazepines — substances that can produce deadly consequences.
A substance addiction, by definition, is a chronic, relapsing disorder of the brain “characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Thus, addiction is a health disorder and not a pathological condition or criminal act. A company that can view an employee’s addiction as a health concern can get that person the help they need.
If that person can complete treatment and achieve a sustained recovery, it can prove to be a “win-win” situation for both parties.
Additional benefits to sending an employee to rehab, according to PsychCentral include:
With the completion of treatment, an employee can become more productive at work. According to PsychCentral, someone who has undergone treatment can become more responsive to superiors, and be healthier physically and emotionally.
The individual will be better able to perform at work, manage their workload, and if they are a supervisor, manage others more efficiently. What’s more, if the person undergoing a successful recovery is a manager or supervisor, their employees will likely experience increased job satisfaction.
An employee who gets sent to treatment will likely exhibit greater loyalty toward an employer that was willing to help them with their addiction struggles. That loyalty could translate to increased productivity at work and a boost in performance. An employee that receives drug or alcohol treatment is “less likely to injure the company in an inadvertent way, such as damaging the company’s reputation,” asserts PsychCentral.
Someone who requires medical leave for a lengthy or complicated surgical procedure will need more recovery time than a person in drug or alcohol treatment. An employee who enrolls in residential treatment can remain there between 30 to 90 days and can typically resume work in six to eight weeks.
While firing an employee with a substance abuse problem might seem like an efficient solution, a company can end up paying more money in the long run. When a company fires someone, it may end up incurring the following costs:
- Separation costs: Companies will likely have to pay additional costs for exit interviews, administrative duties, separation/severance pay, and unemployment compensation.
- Vacancy costs: Costs come in the form of overtime pay to employees who have to perform extra duties to compensate for the loss of a worker. A company will have to spend more to hire a temporary employee to cover for that terminated individual.
- Replacement costs: These are expenditures related to marketing the vacated position, attracting applicants, conducting entrance interviews, initiating testing and medical exams, and acquiring and disseminating information.
- Training costs: This can include expenditures on formal or informal training, literature, technology, and the time spent on a new person learning additional tasks.
There are moral implications to consider. Sending an employee to alcohol or drug rehab is the right thing to do. Why? Because a substance addiction is a brain disease. Thus, that person should be given the same accommodation as someone grappling with a health condition. States PsychCentral: “Legally, companies are not allowed to fire employees due to serious health issues, such as cancer or heart health, but employers are much more willing to let employees go because of substance abuse or alcohol addiction – diseases which should be treated as physical and mental health issues that need to be addressed for the health of the employee.”
How to Get an Employee to Go to Rehab
If you suspect that an employee or peer has a substance abuse issue, the best way to get them to go to rehab is by conducting an intervention. According to the Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), research suggests that up to 90 percent of interventions succeed at getting someone into treatment.
For workplace-centered interventions, it is imperative that employers utilize the services of a certified intervention professional (CIP) to orchestrate the gathering.
A CIP ensures that the person with a substance abuse problem enters treatment. They also provide the following benefits:
- The can assist with planning and staging the intervention.
- They can also educate company representatives on what and what not to do once that employee leaves for treatment.
- A CIP arranges treatment options, including where to send an employee to treatment.
- A CIP can also set up treatment before the actual intervention takes place.
What’s more, a CIP can lead an intervention, ensuring that it is effective and meets professional standards.
The Mayo Clinic advises that intervention meetings adhere to the following objectives:
- Provide the party with examples of destructive behaviors and how those behaviors have affected the subject with the addiction and the person’s colleagues
- Offer an employee a prearranged treatment plan that clearly outlines steps, goals, and guidelines
- Clarify what will result if an employee refuses to accept treatment
- Has good timing. The intervention must be conducted when the subject is mentally and physically stable. Intervention should not take place if the person is visibly intoxicated or experiencing withdrawal symptoms. A person in any of the aforementioned states will not be able to effectively engage in the gathering.
- Carefully planned and executed. An effective intervention is one that is carefully planned, where each participant will know what to say and contribute. Here’s where a CIP can step in: the individual can make sure the participants assisting with the intervention rehearse the letters they plan to read to the subject.
- Sticks to the script. Bad interventions are ones that are unplanned or go off the rails. When this happens, it can thwart the objective of the meeting: to get the individual into treatment.
- Remains civil. This goes hand-in-hand with sticking to the script. When an intervention devolves into personal attacks and arguments, the meeting will have gone off the rails, which (again) defeats the whole purpose. Interventions must remain objective to remain effective.
- Honest. For a gathering to be effective, no misleading, lying, or equivocating by any parties should be tolerated, especially with regard to the subject. All participants must remain honest in their exchanges with that person to reveal how their addiction has impacted the workplace. This will give the subject an accurate perspective of their addiction.
- Objection and excuse-proof. Addiction is a sensitive matter, so the intervention subject may very likely throw up objections and get defensive. They may be quick to deny that they have a problem. To combat possible objections, it helps if participants can document past incidents of substance abuse. This can help to nullify the subject’s claims while getting them to understand their pattern of abuse.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a workplace intervention program that offers support to employees struggling with emotional or behavioral issues. An EAP provides programs to help those who are experiencing hardships in critical life areas such as finances, relationships, life stressors, legal issues, and substance abuse.
EAP hotlines are open 24/7 and staffed with licensed and experienced counselors. EAP provides access to more than 40,000 network counselors, and employees can get legal help, and personal and performance counseling.
Additionally, all calls and inquiries to the EAP are kept confidential.
Benefits of Professional Treatment
If you suspect that an employee has a substance addiction, then it is critical that they seek professional addiction treatment. Why? Because a reputable, evidence-based program will offer multifaceted therapy and care that treats the entire person, mind, body, and spirit.
Professional recovery starts with a medical detoxification program, which occurs under acute treatment. At this stage, doctors, nurses, and other personnel provide around-the-clock care and supervision as the addictive substance is removed from the body. They are also on hand to treat any painful or debilitating symptoms that arise from withdrawal. Depending on the substance, a proper detoxification program can last seven to 10 days.
The next step in treatment is clinical stabilization, which consists of extensive therapy and counseling that will allow an addicted person to get to the root of their addiction. Typically, a clinical stabilization program, where a person lives at the site where they are receiving treatment, lasts between 30 and 90 days.
If that person has a substance abuse disorder and a co-occurring mental health issue, a reputable facility will offer dual-diagnosis treatment, which offers the kind of specialized care to effectively address both conditions.
Should additional counseling and therapy be required, there is outpatient care, which provides those services on a part-time basis.
Once treatment is completed, clinicians can connect that person to a recovery community that can provide them with support and mentorship.
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Addiction in the Workplace: Tips for Employers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-08-04/addiction-in-the-workplace-tips-for-employers
Alcohol & Drugs in the Workplace. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.facingaddiction.org/resources/alcohol-drugs-in-the-workplace
Delphi Behavioral Health Group. (2018, August 30). Symptoms and Signs of Addiction in a Loved One. Retrieved from https://delphihealthgroup.com/addiction/signs-of-addiction/
Delphi Behavioral Health Group. (2019, March 12). Substance Abuse in the Workplace: How Addiction Affects Employees. Retrieved from https://delphihealthgroup.com/addiction/at-work/
Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction. (2017, July 20). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451
Stuckert, J. (2018, October 08). Seeking Drug and Alcohol Treatment for Employees. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/seeking-drug-and-alcohol-treatment-for-employees/
What is an Intervention? Learn About Intervention. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.associationofinterventionspecialists.org/learn-about-intervention/