Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

No business owner wants to assume addiction in the workplace will be an issue. To plan for it sometimes feels like an omen or self-fulfilling prophecy. However, refusing to have a plan in place for the worst case scenario leaves businesses unprepared and results in a detrimental reactive state. It is far better to initially take a professional proactive stance.

Preventative measures normally utilized during the hiring process simply do not guarantee problems like addiction in the workplace will not occur. Prevention is certainly a step all companies should take. However, even if the company chooses a method of drug testing that is fail-proof, not hiring an active addict does not prevent relapse for recovering addicts hired or currently employed. Additionally, it does nothing for employees who may be developing chemical dependency.

Termination is not always the simple answer. Many valued employees, managers and even business owners struggle with addiction. It is a disease and, therefore, does not discriminate. Fortunately for businesses, there are ways of confronting addiction in the workplace, protecting the business and its employees, addressing any resulting issues while still offering compassion and, eventually, an opportunity to return to or maintain employment with the company.

Below are six possibilities:

  • Incorporating addiction and recovery education for management and staff
  • Supplying training opportunities for management/staff to assist in identifying signs of addiction
  • Providing opportunities for staff to attend addiction and recovery presentations and/or conferences
  • Offering a leave of absence—similar to maternity leave—that allots time for addicted employees to receive adequate drug/alcohol treatment
  • Opting for insurance that covers drug treatment
  • Collaborating with intensive outpatient programs designed to assist recovering individuals who relapse

Any or all of these can easily be incorporated into a company’s policies and procedures. Each provide feasible ways of being proactive with regard to addiction in the workplace. Of course, business owners should always hope for the best with regard to their employees, themselves and their business. But, as any business-minded person knows, preparing for the worst is the best way to prevent panic, chaos and the ultimate demise of the company.

If you are a business owner in need of resources for the aforementioned list of proactive possibilities for your company, contact Stages of Recovery via our hotline: 1-844-6-GETHELP.

The Risk for Businesses

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Addiction in the workplace poses many potential problems for businesses. Of course, the main threat is chaos within the work environment and business system. However, chaos plays out in various ways for businesses and, like families, affects more than just the addict and the business as an entity. It is toxic to the entire system and all those working within and relying on it.

This trickle-down effect creates resentment, decreased productivity, shatters morale and ultimately causes a lack of respect for management, employers, business owners and the company itself. Additionally, it generally creates an unsafe work environment. Though there may not be direct physical threats on individuals as a result of addiction in the workplace, there are negative emotional/psychological ramifications for non-addicted employees which often leads to poor performance and eventually resignation or termination.

The potential loss of valued employees and overall shift in the internal view of the company, its mission and founders is just the tip of the iceberg. There are external risks to consider as well. Companies rely on their employees to maintain and operate the business. But, it is the consumers, clients, customers, etc., who fortify the company with the means to operate and employ those individuals. If representation becomes tainted by way of addiction and the aforementioned negative effects, the reputation of the company is suddenly in question and financial support is easily lost.

The point is simple: Addiction is a disease, and disease spreads.

The toxicity either climbs the corporate ladder and eventually negatively impacts even those far removed from the reaches of the addicted employee or spirals downward, knocking off each rung of the ladder on its way down. Ultimately, the company plummets to rock bottom alongside the addict. In other words, nothing good comes from addiction in the workplace, so there’s never a good or justifiable reason to enable or allow it to continue.

Though the latter seems obvious to most, many employers and businesses find it difficult to terminate an employee based solely on the presence of addiction. Considering the fact that addiction is generally viewed and referred to as a disease, they find it troubling—both legally and personally—to dismiss someone from their professional duties based on the realization of the onset of an illness.

However, like any other disease, if left untreated, addiction will advance and worsen. As such, it is important for business owners and employers to realize that continuing to employ an active addict or alcoholic is no different or less enabling than employing a person with untreated, advanced diabetes. Moreover, for a business owner, it is a form of self-sabotage.

The physical and mental health of an individual directly affects their ability to show up, be mentally present, perform required tasks and perpetuate and participate in the positive forward movement of the company. Additionally, poor physical and mental health creates risk for not only the addicted employee but other staff members as well. The risks far outweigh any short-term perceived benefits of enabling active addiction in the workplace.

The Problem with Prevention

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Many businesses often encounter addiction in the workplace. Some set up drug testing as a preventative screening tool during the hiring process to avoid such occurrences. However, most addicts and substance abusers are aware of the half-life of their substance of choice. As such, they know just how long to abstain in order to pass a drug test. Additionally, there are methods of over-the-counter detox, easily purchased and readily accessible day or night, which prevent positive drug tests.

Some readers might believe traditional urinalysis drug testing is a measure put in place to prevent even the recreational use of drugs, and in that way highly beneficial and successful. However, it is only so with those companies who administer random drug testing throughout the duration of employment. And, with regard to random, there are very few companies who don’t disclose the onset of a test with some degree of advanced notice. In that way, the sole purpose of the test is basically sabotaged.

The only fail-proof way to test for illicit drugs is through hair follicles. However, those tests are rather expensive and tedious and often present false positives. Though the turnaround time for results is improving with advanced technology, it is simply not always feasible for the purposes of hiring or maintaining drug-free employees. Besides, addicts will search and typically find ways to pass any drug test or obscure results, even willingly shaving their heads to avoid a positive result.*

Truth be told, there is no limit to what an addict will do to avoid the negative consequences which might lead to a realization of a real problem. However, simply not applying is not necessarily on that list. Remember, manipulation is a skill drug addicts and alcoholics master.

Consequently, though companies believe drug testing prevents the inadvertent hiring of an active drug addict, it doesn’t do much of anything other than reinforce an addict’s manipulative tactics and methods of denial and increase the false sense of security for businesses and non-addicted employees. Moreover, drug testing does absolutely nothing—and seeks to do less—to prevent the hiring of active alcoholics.

How does it seek to do less?

Well, drug testing is simply that; a test designed to screen for drug use, including alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs. However, since alcohol is a socially accepted drug, the stigma for even the recreational use of illegal drugs is quite different. In fact, most helping professionals (including myself) differentiate the terms; addicts and alcoholics.

When companies require drug testing, they are implying by way of omission and semantics that no other form of substance use, abuse or addiction is problematic or even considered with regard to hiring. Hence, the reason recreational alcohol consumers rarely fear a drug test, yet recreational marijuana smokers stock op on Goldenseal and other urine cleansing agents in preparation for one.** Additionally, drug testing does not test for alcohol in the same way it might for opioids or amphetamines due to the vast variation in half-life.

Though a high BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) would certainly raise a red flag and prevent hiring, an individual would need to be literally drunk during the hiring process. Though that is not unheard of, as advanced stages of alcoholism and addiction certainly require a certain degree of intoxication for normalization and the prevention of withdrawal symptoms, it is not the only marker for alcoholism. Testing the urine or blood for alcohol would merely prevent the hiring of an alcoholic in the advanced stages of the disease, as most companies would not likely decide not to hire someone with trace amounts of alcohol in their system.

The problem with prevention with regard to businesses is because of the nature of addiction and drugs in general, there is no certainty in the screening process. Additionally, due to society’s vague definition of addiction, the preventative measures don’t account for alcoholism—the nation’s #1 disease and most frequently occurring and problematic addiction known to businesses. As such, though prevention is of course the first step, it is not the only one businesses should take in an effort to remain proactive with regard to addiction in the workplace.

[Note: With regard to hair follicle drug test, unless eyebrows, eyelashes and all other hairs are removed from the body prior to a hair follicle drug test, shaving one’s head will not prevent the presentation of a sample or a positive result. Moreover, mandatory drug testing by definition implies one must provide a sample to be tested. As such, if an individual agrees to mandatory testing, a sample will be provided and tested, regardless.] [Note: There is no evidence of Goldenseal actually detoxing urine and preventing a positive drug test result. However, many still consider it a go-to for detoxing prior to drug testing.

A Dangerous Misconception

By | Addiction in the Workplace | No Comments

By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Addiction does not confine itself to weekends. It is a disease, and like any disease, it is chronic. In other words, it doesn’t go away nor can it be placed on hold for any reason. As such, it not only makes a constant appearance in the home. It shows up in the workplace too.

Addiction in the workplace is a common occurrence. That’s a reality the general population might not believe. The reason? Well, most people who have little to no education in the field of addiction believe it to be an affliction that instantly lands an individual in the unemployment line, jail and/or on the streets. However, the idea that addicts and alcoholics are homeless, jobless bums is not only a false one; it’s a dangerous misconception.

Many addicts are actually very high-functioning, meaning they still maintain employment. Some even experience a great degree of financial success, accomplish day-to-day tasks and present with a certain level of responsibility not generally expected from addicts. In these situations, the devastating effects of problematic behavior typically occurs in the home and becomes more obvious in private, interpersonal relationships.

As a result, these high-functioning addicted individuals often go undiagnosed and untreated. Because they lack a degree of negative social consequences—those which threaten physical survival and socio-economic status—and still see a level of reward in their lives via monetary gain and material possessions, they often fail to see a need for help. After all, rock bottom doesn’t look so bad when it comes with a penthouse view. Right?

Wrong.

There’s where the danger lies—the idea that only the loss of employment, material possessions and personal freedom constitutes a real problem; aka, addiction. This misconception not only keeps high-functioning addicts from seeing the need for help. It also perpetuates a detrimentally enabling society; one that champions individuals based solely on financial gain and social status, regardless of their crumbling relationships, lack of emotional availability, deteriorating mental health, character or integrity.

The latter is something money cannot buy. Drugs, however, money can. And, as long as addicts remain gainfully employed, their addiction will progress without much contemplation for change.