Addiction in the Workplace

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Scott Basinger, who heads an employee assistance program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, knows that stereotypes of addicted people stand in the way of help: "What we know statistically is that 70 percent of people on alcohol and drugs are employed. The old concept of 'if you're an alcohol- or drug-dependent person, you're living under a bridge' is a horrible stereotype and prevents people from getting help."

People who abuse or are dependent on alcohol and drugs, or even those who use substances in risky ways, pose an enormous drain on their employers' bottom lines. Most employers don't realize that they could save money by ensuring that their employees have access to effective drug and alcohol screening and treatment programs. They will save on the costs posed by absenteeism, lowered productivity, healthcare costs, injuries, accidents or the costs of retraining employees who must be let go because of untreated drug and alcohol problems.

"If alcohol screening and treatment were as pervasive in today's workplace as BlackBerrys, companies would see increased productivity, a stronger workforce, and real savings in healthcare expenses," argues Dr. Eric Goplerud. "Employers and health plans need to do a better job screening and treating employees who suffer from alcohol-related problems because it saves money and it's the right thing to do." Goplerud directs the Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems initiative at the George Washington University Medical Center.