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Re-entering the Workforce After Treatment

Addiction and Employment

Substance use disorder can make even the simplest things in life much more challenging, but one of the most dire and essential is maintaining employment. While many people who have spiraled to the depths of addiction are not able to keep a job due to prioritizing substance use above all else, there are still many silently juggling both. More difficult still is re-entering the workforce during or after addiction treatment, looking to maintain and balance a work life with recovery.

Treatment during Employment

There are many people who are currently holding jobs while also maintaining an active addiction. They may appear put-together on the outside, for the most part, but their performance and consistency usually take a hit as their job and work schedule will always take a back seat to substance use. Those who continue to work while battling substance use disorder are often afraid to seek treatment due to the risk of losing employment, thus not being able to pay bills and support themselves or their families.

Thankfully, the Americans with Disabilities Act now protects individuals in the workforce from being discriminated against in the workplace. Workers cannot be legally terminated for their decision to attend addiction treatment, and charges can be filed for discrimination under the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Re-entering the Workforce after Treatment

One of the biggest challenges of re-entering the workforce after treatment for addiction is the process of filling out employment applications. Many people who have strived to overcome substance use disorder have had run-ins with the law, producing a legal record. While those in recovery are protected under the Federal Civil Rights Act, including employment and workplace discrimination, many people in recovery will still be turned down for jobs from employers due to their past.

Work and Recovery from Addiction

Those in recovery who are able to find gainful employment have a handful of protections behind them from the ADA, and Workforce Investment Act, but remaining sober and fully committed to recovery is essential. Depending on state law, some employers are permitted to drug test potential applicants and current employees. In those states, termination based on positive results may be legal. Even those who are currently enrolled in treatment who test positive for illicit substances or non-prescribed substances are subject to termination.

The good news is, more and more workplaces are becoming “recovery friendly” as the opioid epidemic has continued to ravage the US from coast to coast. Managers and company policymakers are becoming more aware and empathetic to the needs of people in recovery re-entering the workforce after treatment and hoping to rebuild their lives. People looking to balance work and recovery after addiction are now receiving more support than ever before since addiction has been classified as a chronic illness, and the law now protects those who are diagnosed with substance use disorder.


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