Alcohol Addiction and How it Affects You in the Workplace

by | Last updated Mar 6, 2023 | Published on Dec 16, 2019 | Alcohol | 0 comments

alcohol in the workplace

How Does Alcohol Addiction Affect You?

Addiction is a brain disease, and as such, its effects can literally rewire the brain. The substance use disorder can damage multiple areas of the brain with time. This includes areas responsible for judgment, decision-making, self-control, and behavior. Each type of addiction has different symptoms, and alcohol addiction can bring on many of them.

The issues caused by alcohol addiction are related to much of the nervous system. All of the hormone and chemical imbalances make a person act and think differently. Besides these, there are other health problems that can have lifetime consequences. Liver and kidney problems are just some of the possible outcomes of excessive, prolonged drinking.

Needless to say, alcohol addiction in the workplace can be quite problematic. Most of the problems related to the disease can make a person harder to work with and to manage. Daily and long-term difficulties are common and recurrent. Alcohol addiction in the workplace doesn’t just affect the person, it affects the team and the work.

But addiction is not an occasional drink or a hangout at a happy hour. Alcohol addiction in the workplace goes beyond drinking with coworkers at a bar once a month. Habits are considered addictions once they affect the functionality and make the person lose control over their lives.

Problems With Alcohol Addiction At Work

Having to deal with alcohol addiction can be twice as hard in the workplace. The inevitable symptoms of addiction can be even more intense during non-drinking hours, as a person might experience withdrawal. Initially, most symptoms affect the person alone, causing:

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Chills, tremors, and shaking
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits (too much or too little of either)
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Hallucination
  • Disorientation

Most of these can happen even 48 hours after ingestion. It would depend on the level of addiction and consumption habits. They are experienced during the detoxification process as well. That is why, even if trying to quit cold turkey, it might be hard to do so while working.

These symptoms are enough to make someone become inept to do their job. Whether a person works with manual labor or at an office, most of these symptoms can make working even dangerous. There are also other problems caused by employees struggling with alcohol addiction in the workplace.

Some people, however, might be in denial that they have a problem, and not tell anyone. It might be important to keep an eye out for some other signs that there is something wrong:

  • Recurrent lateness or excessive absences from work
  • Inconsistent and/or poor performance (especially when not usual from the person)
  • Sluggishness or poor productivity in the early hours
  • Physical symptoms of withdrawal
  • Constantly drinking during social gatherings, or even on lunch breaks

Statistically, it is not rare for someone to suffer from alcoholism and depression at the same time. Alcohol is a depressant and therefore can slow someone down as they feel “relaxed”. This, in turn, will affect their concentration, thinking, and response in the long run. And these are all qualities many jobs demand. 

One’s personality and habits might start affecting the workplace in general. As they become more addicted, naturally, their behavior might get more erratic. A person facing alcohol addiction can start being too apathetic, careless, and sometimes even take unnecessary risks. In extreme cases, it is possible that they will even start neglecting their personal hygiene.

If You’re Approaching Someone

“Interventions” can be quite tricky in the workplace. There might be a need to report them to HR if it gets too bad. The good thing is that someone from HR might know how to approach the person better than anyone. This should ideally be done by an employer, manager, or an HR representative.

If you’re friends and you want to approach them, however, be ready for any reaction. They might want to deny it, they might feel offended, or they might even cry. It is impossible to predict the outcome of the conversation. If you are just a coworker, make sure to do it outside of work, too. 

Still, there are three things to keep in mind when doing it. One is to not be judgemental. The second is to not accuse but to bring up facts about their behavior. And lastly, make sure to voice concern for them and for others. They cannot feel cornered or pressured, they should feel this is being done out of care and concern.

Legal Help For Dealing With Alcohol Addiction In The Workplace

It is possible to get help when dealing with alcohol addiction in the workplace. One of the main reasons why people do not search for treatment is the need to work. What many don’t know is that there are laws that protect those suffering from alcohol addiction in the workplace. Additionally, they guarantee them equal opportunity and avoid discrimination. Some of these acts and laws are:

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – FMLA-covered employees can get leave from work while keeping their jobs. The act was made to ensure health insurance coverage and benefits wouldn’t be affected by said leave. It is not exclusive to alcohol addiction in the workplace, but those looking for help can claim it as well. It guarantees at least 12 weeks of leave for treatment, not necessarily consecutively.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA was proposed as a way to avoid discrimination when hiring, firing, and employing people with disabilities. Under this act, people actively looking for addiction treatment fall under that category. 

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – The program is an initiative made by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. It is meant to help companies and employees suffering from drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace. Among many uses, the EAP helps connect struggling workers to community resources that can help them with their addiction recovery. 

The FMLA and ADA do come with one condition. Anyone benefiting from these acts cannot be under the effect of abusing any drugs. If they’re caught using substances, or causing problems due to said abuse in the workplace, they can lose their benefits. Their employer will have the right to fire them if they think it is necessary should this happen.

Getting Help While Working

There are addiction treatment options available for those who need to work. Besides the previously mentioned legal rights and acts, there are programs that do not require a 24-hour stay. That is the main reason why they’re perfect for those facing drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace. These are outpatient treatment programs, and they can be done in different service settings.

Outpatient treatment programs only require that the patient come to the facility for treatment sessions. They would only have to come for assessments, therapy, group meetings, and any other activities they might participate in. The number of times and hours of visitation, however, different from person to person.

One of the options would be intensive outpatient programs (IOP). In these, the least amount required is an average of 3 visits a week, for about 3 hours. For partial hospitalization programs (PHP), however, visits might be required almost daily. PHPs tend to be described as almost as intensive as inpatient treatment.

The amount of time and service setting picked, however, will be recommended by a practitioner. Outpatient programs, especially IOPs, are recommended for mild to moderate cases of addiction only. Yes, PHPs or inpatient treatments might not feel ideal for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace. But severe cases might require them, and not getting the proper help can make matters worse.

Still, thanks to the FMLA, it can be possible to get that help. The 12 weeks of leave granted can be enough for most inpatient programs. There are even 1-month options available in many clinics. The roughly 3 months of leave can be enough even for the person to start a transition period, where they continue treatment in an outpatient program. However, it is important to factor in the time taken detoxing as well.

Find The Best Program While You Work

For most people, work can be one of the main obstacles between them and their treatment. The insecurity of losing a job can be overwhelming. But your health will take the toll for it, and not just because of the addiction. With the demanding work routines nowadays, drug and alcohol addiction in the workplace will make you burn the candle at both ends.

We at The Freedom Center can offer you the help you need to keep working and get treatment. Our programs were designed to provide ways to improve that go beyond dealing with addiction. Along with medical and psychiatric support, we offer therapeutic activities that help with social, legal, and well-being aspects of life.

If this sounds like what you or a loved one need, visit our website and contact us today. Our team can help you find the best program for your professional and personal needs. We will be happy to answer any of your questions and help you decide the best option for you. Because your physical, mental, and professional lives are all interconnected, and they all deserve care.

Written by: Nick B.

Nicholas B. is the Corporate Director of Admissions for our substance abuse and behavioral health company. Nick’s mission is to provide quality care to every person that reaches out regarding substance abuse or behavioral health questions. Knowledge of an ever-changing industry, compassion when dealing with people, and compliance in every decision are the forces that drive his personal and professional growth.

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