Addiction in the Workplace: Creating a Recovery-Ready Workplace - Lancaster Chamber of Commerce
Addiction in the Workplace: Creating a Recovery-Ready Workplace

By Eric Rodriguez, Education Resource Director, Caron Treatment Centers

The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid crisis with deaths from overdoses becoming a daily occurrence. In 2021, 107,622 people died of a drug overdose, a 15% increase over 2020, which in itself had seen a 30% increase. Pennsylvania, including Lancaster County, is not immune to this epidemic. On average, 14 Pennsylvanians died of an overdose every day in 2021.

But hidden behind the splashy headlines of such overdoses is the everyday impact alcohol and substance use have on our workplaces. In fact, around 9% of working adults suffer from an alcohol or substance use disorder, while one in three are affected by it in some way, whether in their family, friends or themselves.

There are few workplaces not touched by substance use disorder in some way, although most businesses and organizations largely unaware or ignorant to it. Yet, the annual impact on production, lost time, absenteeism, conflict and turnover is estimated to cost employers $10,000 per employee.

In response, many businesses and organizations are now working to create a Recovery-Ready Workplace. They realize it is in their best interests, financially, to take a more active role in helping employees deal with mental health and substance use, which have moved beyond being sensitive topics of conversation to ones that have a hard dollar impact on organizational effectiveness.

Workplace involvement has been shown to be one of the most effective pathways for individuals to access and engage in successful treatment, but doing so effectively requires that organizations provide tools for prevention, education and intervention at all levels.

Only 10% of those suffering with alcohol or substance use disorder will seek treatment, despite a documented 75% lifetime remission rate among those who do. In part, this is due to the stigma that surrounds addiction and mental illness. The goal of creating a Recovery-Ready Workplace is to cultivate a corporate culture where resources, policies and procedures are made readily available and all employees feel comfortable seeking them out.

This involves:

  • Stressing the importance of mental health at the workplace, giving permission for people to ask for help if they need it – not only talking the talk, as the saying goes, but also walking the walk. For example, performance reviews may involve some sort of mental health check-in.
  • Training management teams on eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health problems and substance use, how to recognize the signs of a problem, how and why to act proactively and what resources are available for help.
  • Providing information to employees about the resources available to them both internally and externally, while also working to change the stigmatization of mental health and substance use so that people ultimately feel comfortable asking their employer for resources.

Employees should have a general idea that help is available, managers should have a more specific idea on who in the organization to contact, and whoever is designated to help should have an extensive set of different referral resources in the community. Some organizations have an employee assistance program for such functions, while others have a wellness program or simply rely on the human resources department. Never assume that staff are already aware of the help available. Messaging around such programs should be circulated and encouraged frequently, not only by senior management or HR, but also by direct team leads and other immediate supervisors.

Caron Treatment Centers has resources for organizations in the Lancaster County area seeking to create a Recovery-Ready Workplace at their organization, including:

Caron’s Corporate Education Program, which promotes substance use awareness for organizations and their employees. This includes two digital programs:

  • What You Need to Know About Substance Use, a five-part educational video series to help employees understand important facts about substance abuse and the impact it can have on their work, family, and relationships. It also explains how employees and employers can work together in supporting a healthier workplace.
  • PREP: Prevention Resources and Education for Parents and Caregivers, a digital program for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers, providing information that research has shown can reduce the chances that young people will engage in substance use.

Customized Solutions for Your Workplace, where the Caron Corporate Education team can consult with organizations throughout Lancaster County on how to create a safe and supportive workplace with prevention and awareness training related to substance use and mental health. This includes training for decision makers, human resources, and employees, either in person or online; customized professional development; organizational assessments; guidance on policies and practices; custom multi-media resources; and employee assessment, screenings and referrals. Caron can also provide part-time staff in support of an organization-wide wellness program.

More about Caron Treatment Centers

Turn to Caron for help.

For 65+ years, Caron has innovated specialized, effective addiction treatment and behavioral healthcare. As a leading provider of integrated behavioral health treatment, Caron has in-depth expertise and experience with both substance use disorder and mental health issues. Caron is in-network with several insurance providers for residential programs in Pennsylvania as well as some outpatient locations. Caron supports all of Lancaster County. Visit for more information.

If you or someone you know is suffering from or at risk of an alcohol or substance addiction, take the next step and reach out to a Caron specialist at 877-920-4849 or contact us online.

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