UPFRONT Addiction prediction

Rising addiction rates for business executives have outstripped recovery rates and are costing companies millions in lost income and profits. Anyone who has tried knows that getting help for business colleague to recover from alcohol or drug dependency and return to work is difficult and expensive process.
But, according to William Stevens, business director of the Unity Trust addiction treatment centre, that’s not nearly as damaging or costly as the financial impact on company’s books of an addicted individual who remains in the workplace.
A substance-dependent employee can cost his or her company from five to 15 times their salary, say workplace intervention specialists. The cumulative loss from downtime, sickness, team discord and impaired productivity can be $500,000 or more per year for senior executive with drug or alcohol addiction.
Stevens says that addictions are increasingly hurting businesses across New Zealand. “The latest statistics show one in 10 employees is dependent on alcohol or drugs, yet less than one in 20 makes full recovery to return to work.”
Rising addiction rates are highlighted by health and disability assistance agencies reporting 50 percent rise since 2001 in drug and alcohol addicts receiving illness and invalid benefits.
In business, says Williams, the incidence of addiction is also increasing across all sectors and is no respecter of title or position in company or organisation.
“While employee assistance schemes offer good intervention processes, the ability to treat and return an individual to full productivity is the key to restoring an executive’s health and productivity.”
Any executive addicted to alcohol or drugs has to rid themselves of their addictive behaviour before they can return to productive work.
This requires serious commitment from employer and employee to several months of intensive treatment, preferably mix of residential care and ongoing counselling support.
New Zealand’s current recovery rate of less than five percent is inadequate when compared to addiction growth figures and unless treatment results are greatly improved, businesses inevitably will incur rising costs and loss of profits.
The Unity Trust addiction treatment programme aims for recovery rate of 25 to 30 percent for clients with serious addictions, similar to that achieved by the famous Betty Ford Clinic in the United States.
Proper recovery means treating addiction not just as disease in isolation from the business and family lives of individuals. It means treating the individual’s personality disorder and work and leisure behaviour patterns underpinning their addiction.
Counselling and treatment has to be long term and all-encompassing, and must address the whole person if recovery is to succeed.
It is not cheap option at $23,000-$40,000 for full treatment course, but it is the best chance an executive addicted to alcohol or drugs can have for resuming normal work role.
If recovery rates are to improve and businesses regain the initiative in halting the rising cost of addictions, there are no easy shortcuts.
More details on executive addiction treatment and recovery are at: www.lytteltonunitytrust.co.nz

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