There’s so much stigma that surrounds drug addiction that many people who are afflicted delay treatment. It’s more than just what their family would say. They fear losing the respect of their coworkers, and ultimately, losing their jobs.
When most people think of the stereotypical “drug addict,” they probably think of someone on skid row. A person who has lost everything and is living for nothing but their next fix. And while this does describe someone with a serious drug problem, it’s not the full picture.
There are more people addicted to drugs than we know. It could be your neighbor, boss or best friend. Maybe it’s even your spouse. Addiction doesn’t discriminate, and it can impact anyone from any socioeconomic background.
And in a best-case-scenario, someone who is addicted to drugs will get help while they are still employed. If this describes you, know that you have a few things on your side.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people who are struggling with drug addiction against discrimination. Unless your boss can prove that you have committed a fireable offense, you can’t be fired while seeking treatment for drug addiction. Being addicted to drugs isn’t a fireable offense. But it’s worth noting that the ADA only covers addiction to legal, or prescription, drugs. If you tell your employer you have a harmful cocaine addiction, you may not have the same protection.
The ADA also mandates that your employer makes necessary accommodations for your treatment. This may include allowing a leave of absence to enter rehab.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another layer of protection that helps ensure you can keep your job while in addiction recovery. Qualified employees are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid absence for recovery without fear of losing their jobs.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, your employer must keep information about your drug addiction and recovery confidential. So if you’re worried about the rumor mills running wild, know that they won’t (or should not) have any foundation in truth. You can’t control what people say, but you can have some assurance that your boss won’t be spreading this information around the office. And when it comes to the other stuff, you have to decide what’s more important, your health and wellbeing or other people’s opinions.
If you’re worried about your job or what people think, consider this. If you put off treatment and your addiction gets worse, you’re likely to face the same fear. But if you get treatment while you are still employed, you will likely have medical benefits and an opportunity to return to your place of employment. There’s only one way to turn addiction around, and that’s through recovery.
Invest in yourself and make the choice that’s best for your future. When drug addiction is an issue, the best choice is always a rehabilitation program, and sooner is better than later.