Substance Abuse in the Corporate World

Substance Abuse in the Corporate World

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Choosing to overcome substance abuse takes great courage. Although one’s working life can at times present barriers to obtaining treatment, in some cases, it actually can facilitate it. A person’s job may even provide a variety of resources that support recovery. Some employers grant time off to their employees to tend to their mental health. Much like parental or medical leave, receiving addiction treatment is often recognized as a valid leave of absence in the eyes of employers and insurance providers alike.

Addressing workplace stress is an important part of the recovery journey. Identifying what may be triggering and discussing it with your supervisor can be a good place to start. A person may be surprised by the amount of support they are able to receive.

It’s not always easy to manage workplace stress and recovery from substance abuse at the same time. If someone is struggling with managing these two worlds, First Steps Recovery is available.

What Contributes to Workplace Stress?

Many factors can create stress at work. Sometimes, a person may have challenges that make it hard to bring their best to the workplace. The effects of stress are ultimately determined by a person’s temperament and access to useful resources.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace stress can be attributed to many factors, which may include:

  • Poor social environment, including the presence of conflict, distrust, and discomfort among staff
  • Heavy workload with limited breaks and difficulty creating a healthy work-life balance
  • Personal challenges with finances, health, or relationships that can impact a person’s mood and performance

Given these stressors, employers can do many things to prioritize the health of their employees. Making the workplace another pathway to healing resources and support for employees’ well-being will only improve the quality of the workplace dynamics and performance.

How Does Stress at Work Contribute to Substance Abuse?

Experiencing stress of any kind exacerbates substance abuse. If a person is overwhelmed in most areas of their life, feeling as if they don’t have a soft place to land, then it is easier for them to seek out comfort in unhealthy places.

The demands of work can make it hard for people to take the time they may need to find that inner peace to have a good day. Add parenthood, school, and other responsibilities, and it can be hard for employees to catch a break at any point in the day.

Substance abuse and other distractions can offer a temporary escape that makes it easier to cope. Oftentimes, however, these distractions fail to truly fortify the person against the inevitable stress that comes with living a functional life. Companies need to encourage healthy ways for employees to cope, at work and beyond.

Navigating Substance Abuse and Recovery Stigma in the Workplace

It is possible for employees and their employees to worry about the potential stigma of substance abuse. Creating a supportive and judgment-free work environment can ease some of this tension and promote continued recovery efforts.

Both employees and their employers can work together to implement and uphold policies that bring a greater sense of community to the workplace.

What Can Employers Do?

Employers can put policies in place that make it easier to connect with others and get the needed help. Some of the ways that employers can support or prevent substance abuse among employees include:

  • Support the development of genuine connections among staff
  • Allow your employees to express their concerns, and actively consider them
  • Check your work’s insurance policies to see how people with active addiction can get treatment and keep their job
  • Lead workshops or meetings to address company policies and outline areas of support for employees

By leading the conversation on mental wellness in the workplace, employers can inspire employees to take a deeper look at their behaviors and habits. No one can force someone to heal, but they can offer them the tools to navigate their own experience with greater clarity. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers useful tips and resources on implementing effective drug-free programs in the workplace.

What Can Employees Do?

Employees can learn how to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings and be proactive about their needs. Learning how to effectively manage their stress will provide them with the unique tools they need to thrive.

Much of what employees can do to support their mental health is rooted in their self-care and self-awareness. Aside from accepting the help that is made available to them, employees can be proactive with their health in several ways, including:

  • Seek professional help from a therapist, mentor, or another specialist to guide them through personal conflict, trauma, and other challenges that may plague their mind.
  • Speak up if they are facing any severe personal challenges.
  • Create and stick to a routine that factors in responsibilities, recreation, and rest for a balanced daily routine, establishing this predictability can encourage less stress and frustration.
  • Get good sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise. These three basic yet vital needs are often overlooked.

When employers create a workplace environment that honors their employees, it will be easier for staff to value themselves by ensuring their health and well-being. First Steps Recovery can work with you and your employees to shift the workplace dynamic to support wellness for all.

The workplace is often one of order, quotas, and responsibilities. Although it isn’t guaranteed, work can cause a lot of stress for people, depending on a variety of factors. Unfortunately, it is possible for employees to become so overwhelmed by the demands or the environment at work that they can resort to substances to cope. With the generalization and accessibility of drugs and alcohol, it can be quite simple for someone to not only use substances but to become addicted. Fostering a healthy and supportive work environment can make it easier for employees to feel at ease with the things expected of them. First Steps Recovery offers support for employers and employees. For assistance, call (844) 489-0836

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