What to Say When an Employer Asks About Your Addiction Treatment

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 76 percent of people with a substance use disorder are employed. At the same time, fewer than 10 percent of the 23 million Americans who are addicted to drugs or alcohol seek the help they need to recover.

Many people are afraid to get help because they worry that it will compromise their employment or put an end to their career. But most employers are aware that getting addicted employees into treatment reduces healthcare costs, decreases lost productivity and improves on-the-job safety.

Getting help for a substance use disorder is the best thing you can do for your health, your relationships and your job. But talking to your employer about going to treatment can be a daunting prospect. Here are some essential tips to help you do it right.

Know Your Rights

Knowing your rights before you talk to your employer about treatment is essential for protecting your job.

The Americans with Disabilities Acts protects the rights of people with disabilities, including substance use disorders. The ADA applies to all federal, state and local government workers, as well as employees of private companies with 15 or more employees.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows qualified employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons with the guarantee that their job will be waiting for them when they return. The FMLA applies to all federal, state and local governments, public and private schools and private employers with 50 or more employees.

Know Your Employer’s Substance Abuse Policies

Before you discuss treatment with your boss, look into your company’s drug and alcohol policy, or if there is no such policy, find out about the sick leave policy. Some employers have policies in place that specifically protect employees who are seeking treatment for a substance use disorder.

Many employers offer an employee assistance program. An EAP is a confidential intervention program designed to help employees resolve personal problems that can affect job performance. Mental health issues and financial and marital problems are generally covered under an EAP, as are substance use disorders. An EAP offers referrals to treatment, counseling services and other assistance.

Talk to Your Boss

Because the ADA doesn’t cover people who are currently using illegal drugs, and because your company’s substance abuse policies may include legal termination for using drugs or alcohol, talk to your boss immediately after you’ve officially entered treatment, if possible.

There’s a chance that your employer already suspects you have a substance use disorder, especially if you’ve frequently called in sick or you’ve shown other signs of a problem with drugs or alcohol. Either way, it’s important to be honest. Without going into details, explain to your boss that you’re struggling with an addiction, and you’ve entered treatment so that you can get the help you need. Answer your boss’s questions about treatment honestly, and assure your boss that you’re committed to recovery and to improving your job performance.

You don’t have to talk to your co-workers about going to treatment, but doing so can help ensure your job duties are covered while you’re gone, and once you return, your co-workers can be an important source of support.

Treatment Works

Taking the initiative to get help for a substance use disorder isn’t an easy decision. But if substance abuse is affecting your job performance, relationships, health or finances, treatment is essential for ending an addiction for good and restoring your life. Rehab will help you improve your job performance to ensure continued employment. Addiction treatment works for most people who engage with it, improving their quality of life, and it can work for you, too.


  1. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA08-4350/SMA08-4350.pdf
  2. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/PHD1091/PHD1091.pdf
  3. http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/ada/ch4.htm
  4. https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/fmla/10c9.aspx

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