Addiction and substance dependences are diseases that can have unmeasurable impacts on the lives of both the one immediately affected and those around them. People suffering from these diseases often see the residual impact seeping into other aspects of their lives, such as their relationships with others and their professional life. Keeping the latter in mind, there are steps that employers can take to support employees going through this. However, to best provide that support, we need to be clear on what addiction and substance dependency is and what it can look like.
Substance Dependency: Excessive use of psychoactive drugs, such as alcohol, pain medications, or illegal drugs. This can lead to physical, social, and/or emotional harm.
It’s also important to note that substance dependency does not look one certain way. The stigmas and stereotypes surrounding addiction are rampant, so keep in mind that this disease may look completely different depending on the person. That being said, let’s take a look at some different instances of addiction as well as some tips on what HR can do to help and develop a compassionate drug policy.
Addictions are commonly broken down into two categories – chemical and behavioral.
Behavioral addictions can include the following:
There is still some haze surrounding when exactly a behavior crosses the line into an addiction. Therefore, there’s no concrete way to diagnose these. However, it’s common for people experiencing these behaviors to seek therapy for them in hopes of finding healthier habits and coping mechanisms.
On the other hand, chemical addictions can include these:
In the case of addiction in general, some advocate for avoiding using the term “abuse,” as it further stigmatizes the victims and the condition. For chemical addiction, the lines are pretty blurred between what differentiates substance misuse, dependency, and addiction. That’s why authorities have proposed the term “Substance Use Disorder” as a sort of umbrella term to capture various levels of severity.
The following list contains signs that an employee may be struggling with substance abuse
Rates of substance addiction have notably increased in recent years, so we have to consider the pandemic’s role in that. According to the CDC, soon after the pandemic began, 13% of Americans reported an increase in their use of substances in order to cope with pandemic-related stress. This may partly be because previously common coping mechanisms, especially those involving socializing and being in close proximity of others, were no longer safe. It’s no surprise that the sudden isolation brought on by COVID-19 had/has detrimental effects on mental health, and loneliness can be a very dangerous thing.
You may be wondering, “how/where does HR tie into all of this?” It’s not very common for people to reach out to their employers when dealing with things of this nature due to fear of conflict or termination. That’s why it’s HR’s responsibility to do the following:
Remember that this topic is extremely sensitive. If this type of situation arises within your organization, handle it with the utmost care. Your team member’s privacy and comfort need to be the top priority. This is an instance where we need to remind ourselves of the “Human” aspect of Human Resources, so as long as you keep that in mind, you’ll be well on your way to fostering a safe and supportive environment for your employees that may need a hand!