An employee with addiction speaks to her boss about getting help with EAP

4 Things Employees with Addiction Need to Know About EAPs

Many people dread the morning alarm, but going to work is even harder when you’re struggling with addiction. Using drugs or alcohol may make you feel lethargic, stressed, or depressed. But for every employee who drinks or uses drugs, there is an employer who suffers, too.

The statistics are frightening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that alcohol abuse cost the economy $223.5 billion in 2006, while the Office of National Drug Control Policy says the economic cost of drug abuse was estimated at $193 billion in 2007. In addition to dollars, substance abuse robs America of efficiency. Alcoholism causes 500 million lost workdays each year. Employees who use drugs are three times more likely to be late to work and 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident.

Thankfully, help is available for employees dealing with addiction. Here’s what you need to know:

1. You have every reason to seek assistance at work.

Although it may seem natural to hide your dependence, reporting it to your boss may actually provide your best chance of recovery. There is no reason to be afraid: legally, if you are drunk on the job, you can be fired, but you can’t be fired if you are sober and in recovery from alcohol addiction.

In fact, the United States government has employees’ best interests at heart. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), signed into law in 1970, assures “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.” Remember too that from a practical standpoint, your recovery benefits the company because it can cost your employer more to recruit and train your replacement than to give you the necessary time off for rehabilitation.

2. The best way to get help is through an EAP.

An Employee Assistance Plan is a program that helps you work through various life challenges that affect the way you do your job. EAPs began in the 1940s as occupational alcohol programs, but their focus soon expanded. Today, they can cover a wide range of situations, which the Department of Labor lists in this order: alcoholism; drug abuse; marital difficulties; and financial, emotional and legal problems.

Most North American companies offer an EAP as part of their comprehensive benefits package through your health insurance plan. Depending on the size of your company and the scope of their plan, these services may also be extended to family members.

3. While EAPs differ, they all offer beneficial support.

Larger companies may provide EAP services in-house, administered by a full-time employee. Some companies contract with an outside vendor, and frequently trade organizations or affinity groups join together to share the cost of running the EAP program.

But whatever model your company uses, in an April 2016 study, the Employee Assistance Research Foundation confirmed these programs are effective. Most offer treatment and/or rehabilitation services as specified in their mental and health care insurance plan. You can rest assured your participation is voluntary, and once you avail yourself of your company’s EAP, all services are free and confidential.

4. If no EAP is available, there are still other options.

While an EAP provides convenient access to support for employees with addiction problems, some companies are too small or too budget-conscious to institute them. In that case, you should turn first to your health plan. Read it carefully: many provide coverage for substance abuse screening, counseling, therapy and follow-up treatment. If you need still another treatment avenue, you can always contact your local city or county Mental Health or Child and Family Services Department.

Then there’s the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a national agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides substance use and mental disorder information, services and research, including a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator hotline.

As Executive Director of Beach House Center for Recovery, Robert Yagoda brings more than 10 years of combined clinical and administrative experience in facility-delivered, drug and dual diagnosis treatment Robert is a licensed mental health counselor and certified addictions professional. What motivates him most is seeing clients make groundbreaking strides in recovery, knowing he was part of their growth and success.

Last Updated: June 01, 2016