Substance abuse and addiction problems are something we don’t talk about often enough. As a business owner, recognising and understanding how to treat them can be very important. So, here’s a guide on dealing with employees with substance abuse issues.
Get educated about alcoholism
There are a lot of misconceptions about alcoholism. It isn’t caused by lack of moral character or by weakness. Instead, according to the American Medical Association, it is a disease. Just like you wouldn’t fault someone for having diabetes or cancer, you shouldn’t judge them for having alcoholism. Instead, try to view their situation with compassion and understanding. Just like us, struggling with alcohol addiction can be similar to struggling with other daily stresses as well.
Understand that alcohol and drug addictions sometimes go hand-in-hand.
Many addicts struggle not only with an addiction to alcohol but also an addiction to drugs. You can clearly see this trend when you look at some of the statistics published by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. According to their research, nearly a quarter of all Americans older than 12 have problems with drugs or alcohol. 16% of the people who fall into that category have problems with just alcohol, whereas 4% have problems with drugs. The remaining 3% struggle with both alcohol and drugs. Surprisingly, most substance abusers are currently employed. Keep in mind, as well, that the substance abusers themselves are not the only ones affected. Employees who have family members who are addicts may be so overwhelmed by their situation at home that work becomes a struggle.
Human resources may be able to help
Large companies often have programs available that are designed to assist employees who are struggling with addiction. Typically, there are safeguards in place that are designed to protect the privacy of the employee. Even smaller businesses are usually willing to work with employees to help them get help. For instance, they may give them paid time off so that they can seek treatment. Larger companies may even cover the cost of treatment for their employees, helping them to get back on track. If not, most insurance plans offer coverage for approved rehab programs. Typically, employees who receive help with their addiction from their employer become exceedingly dedicated and loyal out of a sense of gratitude for the assistance that they received.
Familiarize yourself with the signs of addiction.
That way, you can spot any potential problems that your employees may be having. A person isn’t necessarily an alcoholic if they enjoy a drink or two with their lunch. However, if they come back from lunch stumbling or having trouble speaking because they had so much alcohol, it could be a sign of a problem. Remember, you can’t diagnose an addiction without the proper training. However, you can spot common warning signs. Identifying employees who may be addicts is an important part of making sure that your business runs smoothly.
If you suspect that an employee has a problem with drugs or alcohol, begin taking notes documenting their behavior. Not only can this protect you from a legal standpoint but it can also help you provide proof to the employee when you sit down with them to talk about their performance.
Meet face-to-face with the employee
Trying to confront an employee about an addiction is never an easy task. Instead of accusing them of having a problem, set up a meeting where you can talk about whether or not their home life is interfering with their work. Ideally, the employee will bring up the struggle with alcohol on their own. Remember, there are laws in place that are designed to protect employees who struggle with addiction. You can find more information in the Americans with Disabilities Act and by checking the laws of your state.
Discuss the possibility of treatment
Going to treatment can be an effective way to deal with an addiction. There are many different treatment options available. With inpatient programs, the employee stays at the facility for the duration of the treatment program. Outpatient programs, on the other hand, allow the employee to stay at home, receiving treatment at night or on weekends instead. People with both drug and alcohol dependencies may require dual diagnosis treatment. In these cases, the employee may still be able to work during treatment. Another option is to have the employee work with a private counselor or with a spiritual advisor. If money is an issue, the employee can attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings free of charge for guidance, support, and assistance.
Realize that relapse is a possibility
Beating an addiction is extremely challenging. Even after people get out of treatment, they often start drinking or using drugs again. You may need to allow an employee to get help several times before they fully recover. Throughout the process, you need to be aware of your legal obligations. Because people with alcoholism are protected by the law, it may be difficult to fire them based solely on a problem with alcohol. However, if they are causing safety issues in the workplace, you may be justified. Consider consulting a lawyer to discuss your options.
Provide ongoing support
Coming back to work after going to treatment for an addiction can be embarrassing. Try not to make a big fuss over them, instead, treating them with respect and compassion, just like you would if someone was coming back after getting treatment for an illness or disease. Think about how you would feel coming back to the workplace after treatment. Try to use that as a guide when deciding how to make sure that your employee feels welcome without drawing excessive attention to them.