Addiction does not discriminate. A common misconception is that substance misuse occurs on society’s fringes, with addicts living on the streets and abusing street drugs.  However, it is estimated that approximately 10 percent of the general population struggles with substance misuse. They are as likely to be employed members of society in professions such as first responders, health care, financial services, the resource industry, transportation, and trades as they are to be the stereotype of poverty-stricken and unemployed. Unfortunately — and without appropriate treatment — unemployed and poverty-stricken is where addiction leads, rather than where it starts.

Success on the recovery continuum is ideally defined as ongoing abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Due to alarming overdose statistics related to the ongoing fentanyl crisis, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) in the form of Suboxone or methadone is the first-line treatment for individuals seeking help. This has proven effective for stabilizing individuals who are detoxing from opiates and is essential in preventing overdose deaths. However, it’s still only a part of the recovery continuum for that segment of the population seeking to regain or maintain their career and family responsibilities.

Because those struggling with substance abuse are often actively employed in the community, there’s a need for more readily available resources, according to Sage Counselling and Addiction Services Inc. 

Treatment options

Individuals coping with addiction and substance misuse often face multiple barriers to treatment. Initially, individuals may require medically assisted detox, which through the medical system means being placed on a waitlist for a bed, and risking continuing or returning to active substance use. Upon discharge from detox, there needs to be readily available treatment options accessible to all facets of the population. 

Most people think of residential treatment when considering treatment for addiction, but hesitate over the prohibitive costs, in addition to time away from work and family responsibilities that may be associated with residential care. What many individuals seeking help are unaware of is the option for outpatient treatment. While not appropriate for everyone, outpatient treatment can provide comparable curriculum at a significantly reduced cost, while allowing eligible candidates to apply the skills they are learning in their daily lives while living at home. To substantially increase the long-term success of treatment and recovery, a comprehensive aftercare plan should be implemented and may include peer support, ongoing mental health counselling, and/or a combination of supportive resources.

Workplace addiction

One aspect of recovery not often discussed is the occupational health ramifications of substance misuse in the workplace, particularly as it relates to employees in safety-sensitive positions. To address this issue, more employers in Canada are instituting comprehensive drug and alcohol policies. According to Alliance Medical Monitoring Inc., these policies may include employment testing and employee evaluation, based upon reasonable cause or personal disclosure.

Recovery

Ideally, the role of treatment providers is to form a comprehensive continuum of recovery support from identification and detox through primary treatment and ongoing aftercare.

Statistically, someone you know may be struggling with substance misuse. To help defeat the stigma that often prevents individuals from accessing help, we must first recognize that it does not discriminate. Addiction affects our families, our friends, and our colleagues. It is our collective responsibility to support those we care about in seeking the support they require.