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Fifty years after the establishment of the first occupational alcoholism programs, employee assistance programs have assumed a broad role in the global workplace, Unlike their forebears, EAPs today address not only alcohol and drug abuse but also marital and family difficulties, compulsive gambling, financial and legal problems, child and elder care concerns, and myriad other issues. Even as their responsibilities have expanded, however, EA professionals have found that intervening with workers suffering from alcohol and drug abuse continues to be one of the most common (and challenging) issues they face.
Recent research on the human brain and its neurochemical underpinnings and developmental processes has provided EA professionals with clear evidence that chemical dependency is truly a brain disease--a serious, life-threatening, but eminently treatable disease. Unfortunately the EA profession has been slow to incorporate many of the treatment interventions that have resulted from our new understanding of the nature, etiology, and prognosis of substance abuse and addiction.
Some of these emerging therapies validate the conventional wisdom held by many EA professionals and substance abuse treatment providers; others contradict accepted past practices and may actually hinder the successful recovery of workers and their family members. A few examples will illustrate how recent advances in research both complement and call into question accepted EA practice with respect to substance abuse and the workplace.
True or False?
Conventional Wisdom: Drug- and alcohol-addicted clients generally do not respond to clinical interventions, giving rise to an attitude in employer policies and benefits that discourages treatment and returning employees to work.
Analysis: False. Historically much research attention has been applied to specific programs or modalities and has not lent itself to general conclusions. A notable exception to this trend is the California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Assessment (CALDATA). Modeled on a long-term national evaluation of drug treatment by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the CALDATA findings demonstrate that treatment is generally effective for all primary drugs of abuse. Behavioral therapies for cocaine and methamphetamine, for example, are as effective as treatment for alcoholism and similar in …