Whoopi Goldberg, the Hollywood actress, talked about her personal struggle with drugs and alcohol and what it means to be an addict with high-functioning capabilities on her daytime talk show “The View.” She candidly recalled her past abuse of substances, saying she managed to remain employed because she knew she needed to get paid to get more of the substances of her addiction. The conversation was spurred by a “View” discussion of Charlie Sheen’s decision to forgo rehab and continue working on acting commitments.
Reaching her lowest point everincluded the intense fear and paranoia that accompanied drug binges in her past. Completely free of drug and alcohol abuse for years, she reminded her viewers that anyone struggling with substance abuse has to be ready to take the step into recovery and can’t be pushed there by an employer.
She began acting as a child start. She grew up in New York’s public housing and experimented with drugs in her teen years. Though she left high school, she found chorus roles in Broadway productions as a young adult and said she ended her drug addictions also in her earlier years.
Her shift from a substance abuse addict to years of sobriety draws attention to the condition for many addicts of being “functioning” or holding jobs while in the midst of their painful addictions. Statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that in 2007, more than 13 million of the nation’s 17.4 million people who used illegal drugs had jobs. Out of more than 55 million U.S. adults who reported regular binge drinking behaviors, nearly 80 percent were actively engaged in the workforce.
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Statistics for drug and alcohol use in the workplace also point to serious concerns. More than three percent of adult drug users had used an illegal substance prior to arriving at work or on their worksite during the past 12 months, according to a 2006 article published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. For alcohol on the worksite, the number was higher. A 2006 article published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol said that more than seven percent of working adults said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage during work hours.
Alcohol and drug use in the workplace takes a very high toll annually, with lost work costs and expenses for health-related problems well into the millions. Employee Assistance Programs have helped many substance or alcohol addicts take steps toward recovery while retaining confidentiality.
Shifting perceptions toward substance abuse addiction, especially the view of addiction as a chronic illness, has resulted in fewer employers terminating employees who are actively pursuing treatment for their addictions. The 1993 Family Medical Leave Act has also helped lead people to recovery, allowing an employee up to three months’ leave without pay if they cannot perform their job due to a medical problem, including treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.
Celebrity cases related to being a functioningalcoholic or drug usermay encourage more employees to be observant of fellow workers for missed work time, frequent errors, or other workplace problems that could send a red-flag message that a coworker is struggling with an addiction.