Supporting Those in the Workplace with a SUD

The Wellness Works team had the opportunity to attend the 7th Annual Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Solutions Summit this past week. Hundreds of health professionals and community leaders in the Detroit Region were in attendance to help combat the epidemic of substance abuse. One of the main discussion points was how to be a more recovery friendly workplace. In this blog, we’ll discuss how to be a supportive workplace environment for those in recovery or post-recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD).  

The Statistics  

According to the National Safety Council, roughly 9% of working adults have substance use disorder. Furthermore, workers with substance use disorders miss two more weeks of work annually than their peers. This is because turnover and illness are much higher among those with a substance use disorder.  

Though the most important statistic is that workers in recovery “miss the fewest days of any group – even the general workforce – at 10.9 days.” 

Sobriety vs. Recovery  

It is a common misconception that sobriety is the equivalent of recovery. However, most of the time, that is not the case. Sobriety simply means that a person is not participating in the use of drugs or alcohol. Recovery means sobriety but for the purpose of moving towards a life of happiness, joy, and meaning. During the summit, Howard Zuckerman, a Behavioral Therapist at Trinity-Health Livonia, insisted that a person in recovery learns to live a life that is: 

  • Value-centered 
  • A life that they want to live. 
  • Moving towards being the person they want to be. 

Recovery Friendly Culture 

The workplace plays a major role in the success of an individual’s recovery process. Although recovery from a SUD is often stigmatized, employers that normalize recovery are key. So how can an employer help? 

  • Implement policies that support work-life balance. 
  • Schedule flexibility around meetings, appointments, events, etc. 
  • Offer benefits that support employees in recovery. 
    • HR personnel trained in SUD recovery. 
    • Employee Assistance Programs 
    • Health insurance. 
    • Savings opportunities. 
  • Opportunities for advancement and development. 


Further Information and Resources 

This article was inspired by the presentation of Howard Zuckerman, one of the many speakers in attendance at the solutions summit. Click here to view the slides of his presentation. Below are resources provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to share with your workplace on SUD and recovery.