While a staggering 20.7 million Americans (roughly 8 percent of the U.S. population) need substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, only 4 million people (or 19 percent of those with SUD) receive treatment. Why is that? In large part it has to do with the stigma associated with SUD.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that Americans are more likely to have negative opinions of people with substance use disorders than they are of those with mental illnesses. Despite the fact both mental health and substance use disorders are more widely discussed and addressed than in years past, they are still not treated in the same way as physical ailments are. Plus, a significant number of people still reject the idea that SUD is an illness.

When you consider the fact that almost half of all Americans receive their health care coverage from their employers, you can understand why people with SUDs are hesitant to seek treatment. They worry their jobs may be in jeopardy if their employers know they are struggling. In fact, at least twenty percent of workers cite fear of stigma as the reason for not seeking help. This is why it is critical to break the stigma of SUD at work.

Here’s what employers can do. 

1. Address the stigma directly. Employers can ease their workers’ fears by:

  • offering support
  • communicating that support is available
  • training managers on how to access support and guide employees with SUD.

2. Offer treatment options that work for your workforce. Telehealth is one of the most effective ways to reach and treat  people with SUD. It’s also one of the most effective ways to support recovery. With a telehealth solution, people can seek and receive treatment from the privacy of their home or even a quiet conference room. Receiving treatment from a private, comfortable and familiar setting, reduces a major barrier to seeking help.  

Also, it’s flexible. When you take away the need to commute to and from treatment and you add in options for different times of the day, treatment becomes a much more realistic option for employed people who may have been wondering how to get the help they need without signaling to their employers that there is a problem.

Now more than ever, as  Americans struggle with isolation and uncertainty, it is critical employers address, and break, the stigma of SUD at work . Doing nothing is not an option. Need help with the next step? Want to learn more? Email us.