Addiction is a powerful thing that can take over your health and wellness. When it the grasp of an addiction, people can notice profound negative impacts on their everyday lives, and over time this can become extremely difficult to handle, both for the addict, and for their friends or family. According to a recent report on drug dependency, approximately 70 percent of people in the workforce are drug users. This type of addiction has been linked to negative behaviors including an inability to focus, late arrival, and low-quality performance. Addicted employees can even experience deadly results from their substance abuse, as one report according to DrugAbuse.com reported that 10 to 20 percent of American workers who die while on the job test positive for drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
Addressing Stress in the Addiction Equation
Stress is a factor that many people do not consider as part of the addiction equation. You see, one side effect of the fast-paced American lifestyle is an increased amount of stress. This type of chronic stress is associated with a higher risk for drug use, plus a vulnerability to addiction, and it has also been clinically linked to a shorter lifespan!1, 2
According to research, people who suffer from stress for prolonged periods of time may show visible signs in the form of premature aging, and even an increased risk of degenerative health problems like cardiovascular disease, and poorer immune function.
While stress is a natural response to dangerous situations, people are not intended to experience stress for long periods of time. However, with so many stressors both mentally, and physically many people suffer from this type of stress. Chronic stress has been linked to age-related breakdown throughout the body, and ultimately even a shorter lifespan so it is no joking matter. Stress is also associated with addiction. But how can you talk to your employer about it?
Looking into Workplace Support for Addiction
If you feel like you want to take advantage of your workplace benefits for medical, substance abuse, and mental health according to Dr. Rod Amiri of Prominence Treatment Center in California, you may be able to take time off to get the help you need by using these benefits. Dr. Amiri recommends that you also look into Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), with the human resources department at your job. EAP’s are there to help if you need workplace assistance for addiction.
“These approaches are the safest ways to seek help without fear of losing your job,” said Dr. Amiri.
Get Confident About the Truth
Addiction is not an easy thing to talk about, but the reality is that it is a common health problem only worsened by workplace stress. And your employer most likely has some type of health benefit in place for you to take action. So, talk with your employer confidently about how you feel about taking control of your health.
“Human Resources is responsible for managing and explaining your benefits to you — confidentially,” said Dr. Amiri. “In addition to telling you what benefits you are entitled to, they are often a great referral resource as well.”
Don’t forget to also ask your employer about your health insurance, in addition to medical, and substance abuse benefits they may offer. According to Dr. Amiri, most insurance policies will cover 30 to 60 days of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment, which can often include a clinical detox, IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), and Inpatient Residential/Partial Hospitalization Programs.
Take the Time for Recovery
Addiction is something that can take ahold of someone, but it doesn’t just let go overnight. It takes time to take on recovery. While you are in rehab, just focus on your “me” time, and get better. Don’t waste a moment worrying about your job, or anything else affecting your work.
“Your ‘job’ in rehab is to work full time on learning the skills you will need to stay sober once you return to the workplace,” says Dr. Amiri.
And when you are finished with rehab, take social support wherever you can find it. Stay in touch with your rehab faculty, and also make it your responsibility to get help from a therapist with a specialty in your specific concerns.
Being Discrete in the Workplace About Addiction
The easiest path to recovery is discrete. While the struggle with addiction is real, you can talk about it with the human resources department but you do not have to reveal that you have an addiction to anyone else. Your employer does not require that you ask for more than just medical time off to take care of an addiction, so there is no need to talk about it at work. If someone asks you why you are taking time off, you can simply say that you are addressing a health issue, and that you will be back after you take care of the medical condition. Then just talk about another topic!
In the workplace, you are never under any obligation to reveal medical details about why you are taking leave. You can be 100% private about it, if you want to.
“Generally speaking, the less you say about it, the better. And if you feel the need to say something, keep it brief. If you don’t make a big deal out of the explanation, chances are others won’t either,” said Dr. Amiri.
Talk to Your Doctor
Addiction is a clinical condition so you should be able to contact your healthcare provider, and discuss treatment options that work best for you. This may include dietary changes, a new exercise regimen, or even stress reduction including deep breathing, or yoga stretches.
Just remember, that seeking help for an addiction from your employer is OK! So, check with your current healthcare plan, and discover therapies in your area. Generally speaking, your health is best for everyone – including your employer!
- Rajita Sinha. Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Oct; 1141: 105–130.
- Elissa S. Epel, Elizabeth H. Blackburn. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Vol. 101 no. 49 17312–17315.