Many private companies and all government institutions offer workers Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs. These programs began in the 1940s to offer help to workers struggling with alcohol use disorder, so employees could be less disruptive, healthier, and more productive. Since the 1970s, it has been mandatory for state and federal government to offer EAPs for employees, and many private companies have followed the model to ensure their employees are stable, healthy, and focused on work.
EAPs now offer a range of substance abuse treatment options, as well as help for mental health problems, eating disorders, stress management, and other chronic issues.
EAPs offer confidential services, so people who wish to seek substance abuse treatment, or treatment for another covered condition, do not have to worry about becoming the subject of gossip in their office environment or having their manager or supervisor treat them differently based on perceived disability.
Why EAPs Are Important
Obviously, the ability to earn income is an important part of most people’s lives, and work takes up a lot of time in the average adult’s life. Maintaining employment is important to a person’s sense of wellbeing and personal stability. If a person abuses drugs or alcohol, they may be more stressed at work due to obsessive thoughts about the substance, or their performance can get worse if they are intoxicated at work.
Workplace stress may trigger substance abuse, so EAPs can help to manage workplace issues. If a person struggles with mental health issues or personal problems, these can trigger substance abuse problems, which in turn affect workplace performance. An EAP can offer support for a person to seek help, through a rehabilitation program, therapy, support groups, and other avenues.
Uncovering Substance Abuse Problems in the Workplace
Substance abuse problems can be identified with these three events:
Formal or Informal EAP Referral
If an employee’s substance abuse becomes problematic in the workplace, the person may face a referral to the EAP. This can be either formal or informal.
How EAPs Treat or Prevent Substance Abuse in the Workplace
EAPs do not specifically refer workers to substance abuse treatment programs; however, they can help prevent substance abuse through education and help employees understand health benefits offered by the company in the event that they need treatment for a substance abuse problem.
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Support for Overcoming Substance Abuse
EAPs were originally designed to help employees end alcohol abuse problems, so they could perform better in the workplace and maintain consistent employment with one employer. Although EAPs now offer many types of programs, helping employees find substance abuse treatment is still a major component of these programs. Employees and supervisors learn about EAPs through orientation and education programs, so they know counseling and referral assistance are available. EAPs do not offer coverage for rehabilitation programs, but they can refer an employee to an appropriate rehabilitation program and manage health insurance coverage for the program.
Ending an addiction is not just about becoming a more productive employee; it is also about becoming a healthier person, with better personal and familial relationships in addition to stable employment. When a person has a well-rounded, stable, and satisfying life, they are more likely to be a better employee, a more productive member of society, and a good citizen.