EHS management blog


September is National Recovery Month

When was the last time you talked to your employees about substance abuse and mental health?

According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 19.7 million adults in the U.S. experienced a substance use disorder in 2017. Of those, 8.5 million had a co-occurring mental illness.

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That means one or more of your employees may be recovering from an addiction. Or, they might be wrestling with the decision to get mental health care.

In any case, National Recovery Month is an opportunity to start a conversation about mental health and substance abuse in your workplace.

Below are 10 ways to raise awareness and honor those who have recovered.

  1. Train supervisors and managers to recognize the signs and symptoms of opioid and other substance use in the workplace. Common warning signs include increased absenteeism, frequent breaks or disappearances from the worksite, confusion, lack of attention, and a decline in personal appearance or hygiene.
  2. Raise awareness by including messages about substance abuse prevention and mental health in your company newsletter, safety meetings, and other communications.
  3. Adopt or update your drug-free workplace policy. Many existing policies may not cover prescription drug or marijuana use.
  4. Offer health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance abuse disorders as the default option for all staff, not just those who opt in to it. A thoughtfully designed health benefit plan supports your drug-free workplace policy.
  5. Provide training on the risks and involved with misusing prescription drugs and other substances.
  6. Reduce injury risks. Employees recovering from painful work-related injuries, such as back injuries, may be at increased risk of prescription drug abuse. By preventing injuries in the first place, you can avoid conditions that lead to substance misuse. Learn more about preventing injuries here.
  7. Manage stress in the workplace. Stress is also a risk factor for substance misuse. Investigate employee complaints and address conditions that may cause stress, such as long shifts and understaffing.
  8. Participate in a prescription drug take-back event through your local law enforcement agency or pharmacy. Take-back events offer a safe way to dispose of unused prescription medications and reduce the potential for misuse.
  9. Share treatment resources like SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP, which provides 24/7, 365 information and treatment referral service.
  10. Remember that during times of crisis, such as a pandemic or economic crisis, mental health problems and substance misuse may increase. Encourage employees to look out for one another and consider providing additional support and resources, such as a peer support group.

Visit for more resources.

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