Substance Addiction in the Workplace

It is estimated that alcohol dependence costs UK communities around £21 billion per year, with around £11 billion of costs going towards dealing with alcohol related crime.

Around £3.5 billion of these costs are attributed to the NHS in order to tackle alcohol related illnesses and injuries.

A UK Government study estimates that at any time, around 1,000,000 people in the UK are suffering from a form of alcohol dependence.

Out of the adults who are seeking treatment for their condition, it is estimated that 20% are employed.

Employment and addiction can have a destructive effect on each other.

Work related factors such as stressful tasks and responsibilities, poor relationships with coworkers and superiors, and a toxic workplace environment can pose significant mental health ramifications for subjects.

Spending the majority of your day, 5 days a week, at a workplace which causes significant stress and anxiety to subjects can have a profound effect on someone’s personal life.

They will be less happy, their physical health will suffer, their sleep quality will deteriorate, and their work may suffer as a result.

Furthermore, they may turn towards alcoholic or narcotic substances in order to seek euphoria from their work related stress.

What can further drive their worries and pressures related to work is financial and housing insecurity.

If workers are working long hours but are on a low income salary, or are heavily relying on their work to provide for their family, their work will mean more to them, which can further heighten their worries.

These worries can further reinforce their excessive alcohol consumption.

However, other studies suggest that employment can be a driving force in commitment towards recovery methods.

In the UK Government study An Independent Review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, they discovered that those who are employed tend to stay in work throughout treatment.

It is possible that there is also a mutually reinforcing relationship between employment and recovery.

The study’s findings indicate that entering treatment as an employed person increases their chances of successful recovery.

This may be due to the person valuing their occupation and utilising it as a form of extrinsic motivation towards recovery.

Balancing a Professional Relationship With a Personal Relationship

A man buttoning his suit blazer over his tie

Depending on the person, it can be difficult for an employer to balance a professional relationship and a personal relationship with their workers.

This is especially the case if they are suffering from substance misuse, whether alcohol or drugs.

Professionally, their alcohol addiction can harm a company’s productivity, and it may seem unfeasible to be employing someone whose alcohol addiction is affecting their focus at work.

This can be especially challenging if they are unwilling to make lifestyle changes in order to overcome their alcohol dependence.

On the other hand, it is difficult not to sympathise with someone who is suffering from this chronic brain disease.

Not only are they struggling through a range of cognitive, behavioural, and physical effects, terminating their contracts may lead to higher levels of alcohol consumption.

While substance use disorder can be a predictor of unemployment and also future job loss, studies also show that alcohol misuse can come as a consequence of unemployment.

This can make it difficult for employers who want to establish boundaries regarding drug and alcohol use among workers, but also do not want to place more stress on their workers who are violating work policies.

Mental Health Disorders and Alcohol Addiction

A woman staring sadly out of an office window

When work related stress is prolonged, it can cause a great deal of physical and psychological damage.

Additionally, work related stress can aggravate pre-existing mental conditions which will amplify symptoms and even incite behavioural changes, with one example being developing an alcohol addiction.

Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, in particular, often lead to substance use disorder.

This is because people with mental health issues use drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medicating in order to decrease their symptoms.

It is estimated that up to a third of people who are clinically depressed also engage in drug or alcohol use disorder.

When it came to those who entered treatment for drug or alcohol addiction in the UK from 2020 to 2021, which was 130,490 adults, around 63% claimed that they had an additional mental health treatment requirement.

When alcohol addiction is so commonly associated with mental health disorders, it is important to consider their mental health as well as their substance use disorder.

Seeking treatment for their excessive drinking and alcohol dependence may relieve them of one problem.

However, if they are still suffering from a mental health disorder, issues will still persist, affecting their work, relationships, health, and life in general.

Rehab 4 Alcoholism can help subjects receive a dual diagnosis if they are suffering from co-occurring disorders.

With a dual diagnosis, they can begin to undergo co-occurring treatment in order to combat not only addiction, but any other mental health conditions that they may suffer from.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

How Employers can Help Improve their Worker’s Mental Health

A work video call on a laptop screen and a mug on the desk

Employers should not only enforce anti drug or alcohol policies within the workplace, they should also strive to improve their workplace in a way that can positively influence their co-worker or employee’s mental health.

Some of the ways in which employers can take action are by:

  • Producing and implementing a support system where workers can openly express their difficulties
  • Provide tools, resources, and even workshops in order to improve the mental health awareness within the workplace
  • Ask employees and workers about what can be done to improve the atmosphere in the workplace
  • Offer workplace adjustments to those who require it

While these techniques and practices are not enough to prevent alcohol addiction from developing or worsening, they can create a more positive and non-judgemental working environment.

At a workplace where it is more open and positive, workers will be more willing to share their difficulties and seek support.

Utilising Employee Assistance Programmes

Two men having a video call. The person on the screen is smiling

Employees can also make use of companies such as Health Assured, who offer Employee Assistance Programmes.

These are intended to help workers and employees deal with personal problems which can have adverse effects on their personal life as well as their productivity in the workplace.

This service can offer patients who are suffering from stress, mental health conditions, and other issues the support that they require.

Preventing Alcohol or Drug Use in the Workplace Among Employees

A group of formally dressed people at a corporate event

Along with tackling mental health issues, employers can take measures in order to reduce the likelihood of alcohol being consumed in the workplace.

This can be also done by establishing a drug and alcohol free awareness programme or an Employee Assistance Programme.

Employee Assistance Programmes can offer assessments and short term counselling for employees and those who are close to them regardless of where they are in the world.

It can provide advice for employers as well as advice in confidence for workers who require guidance.

If an employee is worried that they may have a problem, they may come forward in order to benefit from this programme.

An Employee Assistance Programme can also offer counselling in order to help workers who are dealing with issues related to substance use disorder.

Additionally, programmes such as these will help educate workers on the company’s policies regarding substance use.

They can also help workers to understand what the rules are, and what the penalties are for consuming these substances in the workplace.

Workers may be more likely to come forward and express that they may be suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction if the company makes the procedures and policies aware of their employees.

Rather than not seeking help, they may be more likely to reach out and comply with company policies.

Staging an Intervention for an Employee

People sitting in armchairs at an intervention

If you are seriously concerned that your employee or co-worker is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, there are steps that you can take in order to guide them towards seeking professional help.

While you cannot admit someone else into a drug or alcohol rehab to seek addiction treatment, you can help stage an intervention.

Subjects who are suffering from an addiction may be reluctant to admit that they are suffering from an addiction.

They may even become irritated or angry when questioned about their consumption habits.

Rehab 4 Alcoholism can help subjects who want to stage an intervention for their co-worker or employee by assigning them an interventionist.

An interventionist can help people by developing a structured plan towards admitting the addicted person into rehab and also by facilitating an intervention which can help them decide to receive treatment.

An intervention is helpful in convincing addicted subjects to seek support after they have shown signs of being reluctant to do so.

Group discussion around a table

At an intervention, friends, family members, and co-workers will be able to share their thoughts and feelings, such as how the subject’s addiction has affected others around them, and how they are concerned for their wellbeing.

Each participant should utilise examples in order to reinforce how the addicted person’s condition has negatively impacted them.

The intervention meetings should be non-confrontational, providing a safe and secure space for participants, including the addicted person, to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

During these meetings, the participants can ask the addicted person to consider accepting the support provided and undergoing addiction treatment.

A licensed interventionist can help friends, families, and co-workers to navigate procedures related to the alcohol addiction treatment programme as well as the aftercare programme which the addicted person may undergo.

This will allow friends and families to understand how they can help, and it will allow co-workers to understand how they can make the workplace a more accommodating space for the addicted person.

Ultimately, it is potentially detrimental to organise your own intervention without the presence of a licensed professional.

Addiction is a complex subject, and the addicted person may not yet be ready to discuss their problems in this environment.

Man with his head in his hand, eyes closed, in a gesture of pain

A licensed interventionist can help with many steps along the way, such as:

  • Creating an Intervention Team: Creating a list of participants who can have a positive influence on the addicted person throughout the intervention meeting. While it typically includes those who have a close relationship to the addicted person such as friends and family members, it can also include co-workers
  • Formulating Intervention Plans: This includes organising the date, location, participants, structure, and other aspects of the intervention
  • Learning about the addicted person’s history: It is important that the interventionist understands the addiction history, physical and mental health complications, and other bits of information which are relevant towards the addicted person’s illness
  • Educating the participants on the rehab process: The interventionist will help the participants understand what is involved in the alcohol addiction rehabilitation process
  • Facilitate rehearsals: The interventionist will allow the participants to prepare what they are going to communicate to the addicted person. This allows them to be more calm and prepared in the moment when they have the opportunity to share their thoughts with the addicted person
  • Encourage writing: Similar to rehearsing what they will say, the interventionist may also encourage participants to write down their thoughts and feelings. This will help them get their point across more thoroughly when they speak out
  • Include participants throughout addiction treatment: The interventionist can help the participants understand how they can be included in the addicted person’s recovery journey through family therapy, group therapy, support meetings, and so on
  • Plan for Rejection: Interventionists will typically offer a procedure for friends, family members, and co-workers if the addicted person refuses to acknowledge their condition or seek treatment
  • Establish boundaries: While the participants are thoroughly encouraged to offer support to the addicted person, boundaries also need to be established. Participants will learn to end forms of behaviours which are enabling in order for the addicted person to learn to cease alcohol consumption

It’s important to note to Rehab 4 Alcoholism what style of intervention that you require.

This is because there are a range of intervention methods used by different interventionists.

Some forms of interventions, such as CRAFT Intervention, will offer positive reinforcement strategies, and will also provide plenty of support for friends and families who are concerned about their loved one’s health.

Inpatient Treatment and Outpatient Treatment: What It Means for Employment

An empty desk - laptop and phone on the table

If the employee finally decides to seek treatment for their alcohol addiction, they will have the choice of deciding whether to undergo treatment as an inpatient or as an outpatient.

While they will be highly advised by a consultant psychiatrist as to what form of treatment they should undergo, they will ultimately have the final say.

1. Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment at rehab is thought to be one of the most effective forms of treatment.

This is simply because patients will be provided accommodation at a rehab facility where they will undergo intensive treatment for around 28 days.

Additionally, their treatment is highly likely to be personalised in order to cater to each and every aspect of their condition.

At a residential facility, patients will undergo a range of therapy and counselling sessions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Holistic Therapy, and more.

They will also undergo relapse prevention planning strategies and a medicated detox for their alcohol addiction at their designated rehab facility.

Patients will stay at an onsite accommodation for around 28 days (potentially longer depending on their addiction severity) at their rehab facility.

Employers therefore must accept that they will stop working during their addiction treatment.

This is because their treatment programme is intensive, meaning that they will spend a significant amount of time undergoing therapy and counselling each day.

2. Outpatient Treatment

Group Therapy

Outpatient treatment may not be as effective or as intensive as an inpatient programme, however, it can be more fitting for a patient’s unique circumstance.

This form of treatment allows patients to undergo addiction treatment at a less intense level, committing to a few hours of treatment per week.

This can be more if they are undergoing an Intensive Outpatient Programme.

What makes it more appealing to some patients is how much flexibility it offers.

Patients, depending on their work schedule, can maintain employment throughout their recovery as an outpatient.

Therapy and counselling sessions are typically scheduled in a way to accommodate the standard working schedule.

While it can be more beneficial for a company’s productivity to have their worker continuing to work while recovering, it is important to put the employee’s interests first.

If they want to undergo treatment as an inpatient, it is ultimately their choice to do so.

Some patients, depending on the severity of their addiction, are highly advised to undergo inpatient treatment in order to recover safely in a medically supported rehab facility.

Reduce Negative Connotations of Addiction in the Workplace

Person writing on a notebook at a group meeting

In order to make employees who may be suffering from an addiction feel more comfortable in the office, consider reducing negative connotations of addiction in the workplace.

Whether you are speaking to the addicted person directly, or are sharing your concern with other co-workers, it is important to be mindful of the terminology that you are using.

For example, using the term ‘addict’ is deductive because it is stigmatising.

It is essentially deducting the person’s identity into their struggle with the complicated brain disease. Instead, consider using the term ‘addicted person’.

The term ‘abuse’ in the context of alcohol abuse also carries negative connotations.

Rather than saying that someone is an alcohol abuser, which carries connotations of violence and aggression, consider using the term ‘alcohol misuse’.

Additionally, it is important not to reduce the employee’s addiction into a ‘habit’.

A habit could also be brushing your teeth, however, consuming alcohol because you suffer from an addiction is due to chemical changes in the brain.

It is a complex brain disease, and to reduce it to a habit implies that the employee can break it at any moment.

The reason that you should make these simple adjustments in language is to make the workplace a less stigmatising environment for your worker.

Addiction is often stigmatised by many people, so much that they do not think that it is a legitimate condition, but rather a lifestyle.

Perpetuating stigmas surrounding addiction will make it more difficult for patients to come out and seek the support that they so desperately require.

There are resources available for people in the workplace who want to show more sensitivity to their co-worker who may be suffering from an addiction.

Consider learning the language of addiction or exploring the Recovery Research Institute’s Addictionary.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

Educate Employees on the Signs of Alcoholism and Substance Addiction

A large work meeting with employees sitting around a long table

If addiction has been a problem in the workplace before, it is important that you educate employees on the signs of alcoholism and substance addiction.

This will not only help them identify co-workers who may need help, but it can help them realise if their friends, family, or even themselves are suffering from alcohol dependence.

There are many signs of alcoholism when it is affecting a worker or the workplace.

The signs include but aren’t limited to:

  • Frequent absences and sick days: This is particularly the case if a worker is suddenly absent without note of leave
  • Unexplained or questionable disappearances: The employee often leaves the worksite and takes frequent rest breaks
  • Suffering work performances and productivity: Being unable to complete tasks or meet deadlines
  • Signs of stress: Low motivation, negative moods, anxiety
  • Signs of exhaustion: Irritability, confusion, fatigue, inattention, dilated pupils, loss of coordination or even signs of fluctuation between hyperactivity and low activity
  • Poor hygiene and appearance: The worker may not dress up as formally or as tidily as they once used to and may not adhere to the company policy regarding uniform
  • Symptoms of hangovers: Headaches, nausea, brain fog
  • Problems with other co-workers: Or being isolated from other workers

It is important not to make any rash judgements based on if a worker is displaying one or two of these signs.

Assess the situation before immediately jumping to conclusions and accusing them of suffering from an alcohol addiction.

It can be useful to offer assistance for their problems in the workplace and express your concerns with a co-worker.

Here at Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer free advice from a team of non-judgemental professionals, many of whom are in recovery and understand how hard can be to change your relationship with addiction.

Simply reach out to our 24/7, confidential hotline on 0800 111 4108.

A woman in an office smiling


[1] Health Matters: Harmful Drinking and Alcohol Dependence

[2] An Independent Review: Into the Impact on Employment Outcome of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

[3] Mental Health Conditions, Work and the Workplace,or%20make%20their%20effects%20worse.

[4] Depression & Substance Abuse Treatment Plans, Medication

[5] Adult Substance Misuse Treatment Statistics 2020 to 2021: Report

[6] Health Assured

[7] Words Matter: The Language of Addiction

[8] Addictionary – Recovery Research Institute