My Colleague Needs Help With Drug Addiction
Drug addiction is an epidemic. Every day, more than 115 people die after overdosing on opioids and, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid-overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017. This widespread epidemic doesn’t discriminate on age, gender or economic status. This widespread epidemic doesn’t “stop at the door” when it comes to the workplace.
If you know a colleague who needs help with drug addiction, you are not alone. A survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health, revealed that 67 percent of human resource professionals believe that substance abuse and addiction is one of the most serious issues in their companies.
Individuals struggling with drug addiction fear losing employment or the financial strain from an unpaid leave. But there are federal laws that protect employees who enter a drug rehabilitation program.
Recovery Centers of America provides evidence-based, individualized treatment solutions for individuals struggling with drug addiction and co-occurring disorders. With an individualized approach to addiction treatment and a comprehensive continuum of care, we are here to help your colleague take steps to recovery.
Commonly asked questions:
- Should I tell HR that my colleague needs drug addiction treatments?
- Should I tell my boss that my colleague needs addiction treatments?
- Can I get in trouble at work for not speaking up about my colleague’s addiction?
- Can my colleague sue me for reporting their addiction problems?
- How can I talk to my colleague about going into rehabilitation treatments?
- Will my colleague lose a job if I report his or her addiction?
- Can my colleague work remotely from inside the rehabilitation facility?
- Can I remain anonymous when attempting to get help for my colleague’s addiction?
- How can I determine if my colleague needs drug rehabilitation?
Should I tell HR that my colleague needs drug addiction treatments?
If you’re wondering what to do to help your coworker, you may need to get human resources involved. But first, be as certain as possible the signs you are observing are symptoms of drug addiction and not stress, lack of sleep, or side effects from another illness. Then, if you believe your colleague is suffering from drug addiction, consider speaking with them personally in a non-judgemental, caring manner.
Before approaching human resources, document any behaviors you witness that are signs of drug addiction.
If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your coworker, check in with human resources to see if your company has a confidential hotline or an employee assistance program. Many employers have a substance abuse policy in place, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence suggests that companies create a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to combat drug problems in the workplace. If your place of employment does not have an EAP or if you don’t know how to approach your colleague, one of the certified interventionists at Recovery Centers of America can help you connect and start a dialogue.
Should I tell my boss that my colleague needs addiction treatments?
Seeing a colleague abuse drugs in the workplace is very different than having a suspicion that your coworker is struggling with a drug addiction. If you see someone using drugs at work, it is appropriate to discuss the activity with your boss or human resources. If you only suspect your college needs help with drug addiction,, you may want to consider having a personal conversation with your colleague—one on one.
If you have a friendly relationship, or spend time together away from work, he or she may be open to your input. Keep the conversation non-judgemental and give examples of how his or her drug use may be affecting performance at work.
If you do choose to tell your boss, many companies have Employee Assistance Programs and procedures in place for reporting suspected drug addiction.
Can I get in trouble at work for not speaking up about my colleague’s addiction?
If you are unsure if you can get in trouble for not speaking up about a colleague’s drug addiction, consult with your human resources department or refer to company policies. Many organizations have a confidential hotline or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to address concerns. If your colleague’s drug addiction is affecting a job where the safety of others is a major factor, you may be required by your company to “see something, say something.”
Can my colleague sue me for reporting their addiction problems?
There is no easy answer for this since it depends on the basis of the report. There is a difference between reporting someone for suspected drug addiction and reporting someone for using drugs on the job. If you see someone drinking or doing drugs in the workplace, you should report the action to human resources immediately.
In terms of legal recourse, it will depend more on your company’s human resource policies.
How can I talk to my colleague about going into rehabilitation treatments?
If you notice signs that a colleague needs help with drug addiction, it can be difficult to know how to initiate a conversation. There are various resources (including calling 1-800-RECOVERY) available to offer strategies and help you develop a plan.
Consider the relationship you have with your colleague in the workplace. If you have worked closely with a person and are also friends outside of work, the discussion may seem more genuine. Whereas, if you have few interactions with the person, they might become defensive.
One way to approach a colleague who needs help with drug addiction is to work with one of Recovery Centers of America’s professional interventionists, who will organize an intervention free of charge.
Will my colleague lose a job if I report his or her addiction?
Consider that avoiding treatment could be much more damaging to a person’s career. If the person is an at-will employee, his or her position can be terminated for just cause, without warning. But if he or she proactively enters into a drug addiction rehabilitation program, there are federal laws that offer employment protection.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) state that a person’s job cannot be eliminated if that individual decides to enter into an addiction treatment program. The ADA and FMLA do NOT provide any special protection to individuals whose drug addiction is affecting job performance or is in violation of company policies.
Can my colleague work remotely from inside the rehabilitation facility?
Work commitments should not deter someone from seeking help for drug addiction. In circumstances where patients are progressing in treatment, Recovery Centers of America offers accommodations for patients to work remotely.
However, since addiction treatment requires daily programming and therapy sessions, working full time during inpatient treatment is not possible. Recovery Centers of America does not have a black and white policy about working remotely while in a drug rehabilitation program. Internet access, permissible electronics, and phone usage are allowed on a case-by-case basis and depends on the progress of each patient. If there is regression, working privileges will be reconsidered and potentially revoked as a means of getting the patient engaged in treatment.
Can I remain anonymous when attempting to get help for my colleague’s addiction?
Recovery Centers of America abides by HIPPA guidelines and protects patients’ privacy. When you call 1-800-RECOVERY, you can choose to remain anonymous. Recovery Centers of America will then reach out to your colleague and keep your identity anonymous.
How can I determine if my colleague needs drug rehabilitation?
If you even suspect your colleague’s struggling with drug addiction, it is best to consult a licensed professional for assistance. Many times, a drug addiction affects all aspects of a person’s life and he or she will display psychological, emotional, relational, and physical symptoms. Workplace signs may include frequent (unplanned or last-minute) absences and tardiness, unexplained disappearances from the workplace, and poor or erratic work performance.
If you are unsure about these signs or their severity, refer to Recovery Centers of America’s free resources to help guide you in this effort.