If you’re struggling with substance use, you’re not alone. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association reports that 60.2% of the United States uses substances, and an estimated 20.3 million U.S. adults struggled with substance use disorder. While most of us don’t think of substance abusers as hard-working individuals, 70% of people with substance use disorders are employed. Most importantly, individuals in high-stress jobs often face the highest risk of substance abuse, with many leaning into substances to cope with stress and pressure. If you are struggling, you aren’t alone.
Today, substance use disorders are recognized as mental health problems. In the United States, you have the legal grounds to protect yourself and your career when you go to rehab. Learning how to seek help, within the grounds of those laws, will ensure you can seek out help, get clean or sober, and return to your career.
Whether your primary concerns are asking for time off from work, being found out as a substance abuser, or exposing possible substance abuse in the workplace, you have options. In most cases, your job is protected, unless your substance abuse has led you to specifically break contractual agreements or if you work in an occupation where moral character is a requirement.
- Many workplaces offer rehab and treatment programs as part of employee coverage. This is sometimes required by law under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act depending on the size of your organization. You can contact HR to learn about these employee assistance programs.
- Most organizations offer standard sick leave, with no requirements of disclosure
- The Family and Medical Leave Act stipulates that you can request up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave without disclosure of reasons, without risking your job.
- In some cases, you may qualify for union benefits or protection, which you should look into
- If you are currently clean (not abusing illicit drugs), the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) allows you to take time off work and seek out treatment for the disability that is a substance use disorder.
- Your insurance company is usually required to cover at least part of your rehabilitation and treatment costs. However, the percentage will heavily depend on your insurance plan and coverage level.
Each of these options allows you to safely take time off without risking losing your job. However, they won’t necessarily protect your career.
Get Your Questions Answered Now.
Should You Disclose Rehab to Your Boss?
That depends a great deal on your profession and your work contract. In some cases, it’s a good idea to tell your employer the truth, to fully disclose your problem, and to fully disclose treatment. This can help you to get assistance from your employer, to aid your employer in providing a drug and alcohol-free environment, and to ensure that your future relationship is one built on trust.
Many people balk here for a number of reasons. For example, if your workplace has a no drug policy and regularly uses drug testing, disclosing your substance use disorder may result in difficulties. However, your employer is obligated under the ADA to treat your personal medical needs and records as confidential. This extends to your mental and physical disorders, including substance use disorder and treatment.
It’s important to consider that your employer or colleagues may already suspect something is wrong. However, there are instances when it may not be a good idea to disclose substance abuse to your employer:
- You work in a field where moral character is required. For example, lawyers may be disbarred for representing a client while under the influence
- You have been under the influence or used a substance while in the workplace
- You know that your substance use has affected work or quality of work
In each case, you have a moral and business decision to make. On the one hand, you want to keep your career and you want to improve and have the grounds to get better and to be better. On the other hand, if your actions have hurt or potentially hurt clients or other people or otherwise caused damages, not taking responsibility may be wrong. If you are in doubt, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney.
- Many employee contracts allow them to terminate you for drug use while at work
- Any moral character clauses allow for termination should that clause be breached, such as by substance abuse in the workplace
- Your employer may launch an investigation to ensure that your substance abuse has not affected work or caused harm. If so, you will likely lose your job.
It’s normally a good idea to prevent disclosure to clients or customer base as a whole. Many careers heavily depend on reputation, and your employer may be forced to terminate you should your substance use become public knowledge.
While it may be a good idea to disclose your substance use disorder to your employer, it’s not required. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Patient Protection, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Affordable Care Act all stipulate that you are not required to disclose your disorder to your employer. They are not allowed to force you to tell them. In most cases, the most they can do is ask you for a note from a doctor informing them of the necessity of the leave.
Seeking out Rehab While Protecting Your Career
Whether you decide to tell your employer or not, it’s important that you seek out rehab in a discreet manner. How you do so should depend on your job, your available assistance, and your available time. For example, many rehab facilities offer specialty executive rehab programs designed to offer as much privacy as possible.
Residential Treatment Programs – You may want to choose a choose a rehab program out of state to prevent being recognized. A good addiction treatment program will make it easy to transition into treatment in another state. Most will also offer transitive care once you return home. You can use FMLA, sick leave, or an employee-sponsored program to take this time off work.
Detox and Outpatient Care – If you’re not willing to request FMLA leave, you should likely take time off sick to attend medically supervised drug and alcohol detox and then follow up with outpatient care. This option is worse in that you will have less time and space to work on yourself and learn new behaviors and coping mechanisms. It may also be a struggle if you work with local clients or are well known and might be recognized attending care. However, outpatient programs allow you to continue to meet your responsibilities at work while seeking out rehab treatment.
In most cases, anyone you work with will notice changes before and after rehab. Chances are, they already suspect that something is wrong, even if they don’t realize you have a substance use addiction. It’s important to use your own discretion when disclosing substance use. However, it’s also your responsibility to seek out treatment as quickly as possible. Doing so will likely impact the quality of work, investments, and possibly even the safety or livelihoods of others affected by your job. Getting into rehab and recovering from your substance use disorder is the best way to protect your career.
If you or your loved-one is seeking help for substance addiction, call us at (714) 443-8218 and look into our recovery programs. Our Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Huntington Beach helps clients by providing them with addiction intervention services, detox, and residential addiction treatment.
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