Addiction in California and the Impact on Employers
California’s workers are using drugs. California’s state constitution guarantees a right to privacy that can extend to cover drug testing- putting employers in an uncomfortable situation when trying to resolve the problem of suspected drug abuse. California’s drug rehabs, by the numbers, are some of the most effective in the country. So, now’s the time to learn why your business needs to know about addiction in California and how California drug rehabs can help your employees.
Drug Abuse Cannot Be Ignored
Some believe the national opioid crisis has “missed” California, due to its low overdose rates (11.2 per 100,000 citizens) proportional to the national average (19.8). However, overdose rates are a symptom of a larger problem, and for every overdose in a population, there could be hundreds or thousands of drug and alcohol addicts going about their daily lives.
Treating drug abuse like a reality may mean updating your business’s policies on drug use. It may mean engaging employees on a more individual level to assess how they’re functioning. California has made great strides in trying to combat the problem of drug abuse, but it can only be resolved when there are people willing to look for the signs of addiction and refer to treatment.
The introduction of Narcan (or Naloxone) gave friends, family, and first responders a powerful tool for rescuing opioid overdose victims. But administering naloxone during an overdose isn’t a long-term fix. It does not treat addiction, nor does it reverse the health problems associated with short- or long-term drug use. Those who want long-term solutions to drug addiction problems need to know about California’s drug rehabs.
Rehabilitation isn’t a cure for addiction, but it does offer the best chance for a patient to overcome the multiple factors that pressure people to use drugs. Chemicals in the brain that indicate “pleasure” are overloaded, and the brain is slowly reprogrammed to compulsively seek more. The effect of the drug wanes as the brain becomes more tolerant to it- and so the compulsion pushes them to consume more.
Addiction isn’t a strictly chemical problem, either. In many cases, the path to addiction (for both alcohol or drug abuse) starts with social or psychological factors that aren’t properly resolved. That’s why most rehabilitation programs incorporate psychiatric and mental health services to accommodate both the mental and chemical factors of addiction.
Addiction in the Workplace
Recent reports contend that one in ten working-age adults suffers from an alcoholic or drug-based addiction. These people are out in our workforce; building our houses, paving our roads, and doing their part to keep our economy moving forward. The struggle with addiction can be overlooked, as they all need to maintain appearances to keep their jobs, families, and social structure.
The first step to helping them is detecting drug use early. They’re frequently late, miss work, exhibit hazy or dissociated behavior, and struggle staying on task. They may have just recovered from a medical situation that prescribed painkillers and can no longer get refills. These are legitimate causes to have a one-on-one discussion with them, so take it seriously and use empathy to probe for answers. Say things like:
- “You haven’t been acting yourself lately.”
- “Your behavior has me worried about you.”
- “Your co-workers have expressed concerns about you.”
Each of these show an investment in the employee and makes them feel like they’re part of something that cares about them. Avoid saying things like:
- “What’s wrong with you?”
- “Why can’t you just be on time like everyone else?”
- “You better not be on drugs.”
When we face addiction with employees, the primary goal is to support them and encourage them to receive treatment. Many people will claim they’re “handling” it, but without outside help, very few of them achieve long-term recovery. Supporting a suspected addicted person or person in recovery isn’t easy – but it starts by treating them with respect and empathy.
Addiction is a disease, and many have recovered from its effects. If you’re considering hiring a former drug addict, take their addiction history seriously. Addiction does not discriminate by age, gender, race, income level, or any other factor. Employers may find it difficult to fill all of their open positions without including someone who struggled with addiction – but as long as your business is prepared for it, they won’t pose as great a threat as many think.
Many businesses have procedures governing how to handle failed drug tests, observed drug abuse symptoms on the job, or finding evidence of drug use and many of them call for immediate termination. If it isn’t in violation of applicable laws (such as those regulating the health field or working with children), we encourage employers to consider support first before termination, reporting, or prosecution. Contact your local California drug rehab facility to learn more about options you can present to your employees if or when it happens.
“Avoid the Statistics”
There’s a simple, practical philosophy a business can employ to take better care of employees at risk for addiction: “avoid becoming a statistic.” Drug use among working adults isn’t documented well and most often comes to light after it’s too late, when they’ve become a statistic:
- They’re fired from their job for drug use.
- They engage in other risk-seeking or criminal behaviors to feed the compulsive addiction.
- They overdose and/or are administered naloxone.
This attitude helps in two ways. It sets an attainable, tangible goal for the addict (ending drug use through treatment) and focuses on them as an individual, rather than one of many employees or members of a community.
Start Your Recovery Today
Regardless of what industry you’re in, you need to know your employees are operating free from the “reprogramming” disruption of addiction. You need to cultivate a culture in your workplace to recruit and train people you can rely on, and that may mean making some changes.
If you have someone in mind whom you feel may need referred to treatment, start by contacting our counselors today to better understand how treatment is provided, what your employee’s options will be, and how to start the referral process.
If your business has never had any addiction cases or has had addiction cases in the past but none in your current operations, we encourage you to prepare your internal procedures for what may be an inevitable reality. Check in with under-performing, truant, or tardy employees and make sure they know they’re free to discuss addiction troubles with you or a designated administrative colleague.
Avoiding the statistics will take effort on the part of you and all your employees, whether they are drug users or not. Cultivating your internal culture as one of inclusion and acceptance may go a long way for some employees at risk of exploring drug use.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.