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What Happens When Businesses Spearhead Addiction Counseling?

It might be odd to think about addiction counseling as a business decision. Typically, it lands squarely in the healthcare debate. Yet with over $6.2 billion -yes, billion with a B- lost in productivity every year, it’s time to address this issue from the business front.

Since business owners are practical, we’ll start this off from a business cost perspective. Addiction and substance abuse is costing your company thousands, if not millions.

Every day, employees around the globe come in hung over, call in sick, make poor decisions or find themselves at the center of workplace accidents due to addiction-related problems. From late starts to hung over work productivity to celebrating with coworkers in the early afternoon, substances are slowly chipping away at your success potential. Did you know that employees who use drugs or alcohol are 3.6 times more likely to injure themselves or another person in the workplace?

We could be exaggerating. To be honest, we wish we were overstating the problem. Alas, it’s actually much bigger than we can get across in a single article.

The Cost
It’s not just productivity at stake.

What happens when an employee gets a DUI in a company car? Or consider if someone leaks secrets while at the local pub. What about operating heavy machinery with a hangover or while lightly buzzed? Can you imagine how a major client would react if they found out your representative was high during a meeting?

This is going on all around the country at this moment.

Now pause for a moment. How many “good decisions” have you made under the influence? Most likely a few wince-worthy college moments come to mind. It’s unlikely anything particularly brilliant came out of a weekend bender or after taking a hit.

In short, we make bad decisions when under the influence. More importantly, we have a higher prevalence of making an unethical or unmoral decision.

Substances are causing otherwise stand-up employees to take higher risks, toe the line with morality and create accidents in every industry in the United States.

The true cost is incalculable, and we haven’t even gotten to the part where your medical premiums rise. Yes, employees with substance abuse problems or even moderate drinking increase the volume of medical claims.

U.S. companies pay, on average, $7,983 per employee for health benefits. Each work-related accident, visit to the doctor, and surgery roll into next year’s bid. Bottom line, individuals who are abusing substances increase the health benefit cost of the total company because they have more claims. These substances take a nasty toll on the body.

Industries At Higher Risk
Risk for substance abuse often varies by industry. At first, we see increased instances in industries that don’t require drug tests, such as carpentry, construction and the service industry, as in waiters and bar tenders.

Next we see red flags in high-stress occupations such as doctors, lawyers and first responders. Both due to demanding and irregular schedules as well as the sheer stress and burden these individuals carry in these related professions, we see a much higher rate of substance abuse, depression and suicide.

Last year the Surgeon General put out an in-depth report on addiction. In it, he cited that, “Over 20 million people have substance use disorders” in America alone.

While certain industries may be more prone to struggle with addiction, the reality is that these 20 million people work in every single industry. With more than 400,000 individuals in each state, odds are that you know, or employ, several of them.

Reevaluating Gut Reactions
It’s likely that your gut reaction will be to fire the offending employee immediately. On the surface, that may seem like a proactive, cost-effective solution. After all, you don’t run a charity. Everyone needs to earn his or her keep.

The reality is that strictly from a business standpoint, firing them is the more costly option.

Conservative estimates calculate that an employee turnover costs 25%-30% of an employee’s salary. The longer they’ve been with the company, and the more elevated the position, the more costly to replace. It’s hard to calculate the full cost, as the replacement will take months to find, as well as months to train.

That’s not mentioning the undercurrent of disloyalty a firing brings about. Any time an employee leaves, it can start a string of exiting employees. These occurrences tend to cycle. Additionally, an employee stepping into the shoes of a sacked employee doesn’t create a scenario that breeds company loyalty.

The Solution
If it’s too costly to fire them, what option does that leave you? Treatment.

More specifically, implementing an Employee Assistance Program that includes addiction treatment options. Even giving paid time off for a 90-day inpatient treatment will be more cost effective than replacing the employee. Once they address their addiction, their productivity will skyrocket. As they aren’t new to the position, they will step back into the role instantly, picking up where they left off. That grace period will snowball into a gigantic ROI as the employee ups to triple their effectiveness and productivity.

What’s more, you’ll garner dramatic loyalty. A 2000 workplace study sited that 87% of employees would work harder for a company willing to help address personal problems.

That doesn’t even count curbing your medical costs with fewer claims.

Creating an Umbrella to Protect Staff, Increasing Productivity
An EAP program doesn’t limit benefits to those with substance abuse. An EAP creates a safety net to all of your colleagues that desperately need help. Many times even just focusing on individuals with substance abuse disorder means addressing mental health issues as well. According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 50.5% of the adults in the U.S. with a substance abuse disorder had a co-occurring mental disorder. Combined, these two problems cost employers an estimated $225.8 billion each year. Again, billion with a b.

The reality is that mental health and substance abuse don’t cover the full spectrum of challenges your employees will face. That’s why EAPs cast a wider net.

The U.S. Office of Personnel describes an EAP as:

A voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. EAPs address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders.

Once again, we want to stress the importance of how these programs not only help employees, they also positively enhance the bottom line. After implementing an EAP program, the Ramada Corporation achieved a 50% reduction in absenteeism and 82% reduction in accidents.

The Hazelden Study found that every dollar spent on employee rehab saved the company $7 in health and social costs.

These programs work because they protect your company’s greatest asset, the employees. Investing in employees is good for business.

Adding A Confidential Layer to Your Treatment Program
Hopefully we’ve demonstrated the importance of spearheading addiction treatment, if not just for the employee but for the welfare of the business.

This brings up the challenge all friends and family of an individual with a substance abuse problem face, where do I go next?

If you’re looking for how your business can take the lead on curbing this problem infiltrating work forces around the nation, contact us today.

As an outpatient recovery program dedicated to being discrete and adhering to a greater standard of confidentiality, we can help you integrate treatment programs into an EAP or directly into the business. By partnering with us, you gain the benefits of proven Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), a continuation of care that increases chances of recovery, and the discretion that preserves the good name of both your employees and the business reputation.

Because your employees are worth saving, it’s time to consider bringing in addiction treatment as part of your company’s benefits.

Contact us today to start the conversation on what program makes the most sense for your company.

Special thanks to contributor Libby Timmons, Board of Directors President-Elect of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association for consulting on this article. To learn more about EAP programs, visit Employee Assistance Professional Association at



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