Approximately 5 to 17 percent of employees suffer from substance abuse disorders (SUDs), depending on the industry. Fortunately, treatment programs can help. When employees get help, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reports that common problems they often face at work improve. For example, unplanned absences decrease by 85 percent and discipline problems decrease by 75 percent. 

While you may feel awkward or unsure how best to support a colleague in treatment, there are some simple things you can do. Most important, of course, is to take your coworker’s lead, respect their privacy, and make sure you’re helping without hindering.

Here are two simple ways you can support your colleague in SUD treatment:

  1. Help erase the stigma of SUD. Too often there is  stigma attached to SUD and the mental illness that typically accompanies it ( As a result, people with SUDs might worry their jobs are in jeopardy if their employers know they are struggling. This is why it is critical to break the stigma of SUD at work. Educate yourself. Support your coworker by helping to spread facts and eradicate common misconceptions about SUDs.
  2. Be a champion in the workplace. Encourage your employer to offer support to employees with SUD. Telehealth is one of the most effective ways to support recovery. With a telehealth solution, people can seek and receive help from the privacy of their home or even a quiet conference room. Receiving support from a private, comfortable and familiar setting, reduces a major obstacle to living in recovery.  Also, when you take away the need to commute to and from meetings and you add in options for different times of the day, accessing support becomes a much more realistic option for employed people who may have been wondering how to get the help they need without disrupting their employment. 

Employers can play a major role in removing stigma and offering flexible and realistic recovery support options and you can be an advocate to make sure that happens. Recovery from alcohol or drug abuse should not be a personal fight.

Want more information on how to help your colleague with SUDs? Email us.