Safe Guarding Your C-Suite Executives Against Addiction

A large portion of high-function alcoholics, prescription drug abusers and drug users are C-Suite Executives. How can companies help their C-Suites with addiction? Read, here.

minute read
Harold Clifton Urschel III, M.D., M.M.A.
Chief Medical Strategist, Enterhealth

Safe Guarding Your Management Team

Most businesses have plans in place for potential crises, ranging from personnel matters such as white collar theft to issues affecting customers such as data breach or product failures. For employees, Employment Assistance Programs are often available to help employees deal with personal matters, typically psychological issues such as depression.

How can companies plan an intervention plan to help employees with substance use problems? How should addiction in the workplace be approached and handled? In this article we cover some very important aspects of this issue. We also invite your questions and comments in the designated section at the end.

How do you cope with addiction in the workplace?

Very few companies have a plan to provide effective addiction recovery services to their employees. Early drug or alcohol ntervention can prevent someone from becoming a substance abuser, but we treat those who do become addicted.

To be clear, assisting all of your employees with addiction problems is important, but it’s imperative to have a crisis plan in place to help key members of your management team who may have a developing substance use problem and are critical to your organization and very costly to replace.

Addiction is Prevalent Amongst High Achievers

It’s no secret that the best leaders among us – the most driven, successful and creative thinkers – are wired a bit differently than the rest. Their level of dedication to work has landed them in the “C-Suite,” or management positions in the office, where they’re often faced with important, executive decisions, high-profile meetings and work-related trips.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, studies show that about 20 percent of alcoholics are high-functioning and well-educated. New studies also reveal that prescription medication abuse and addiction — usually painkillers — is steadily rising in the C-Suite circle. At the Enterhealth addiction treatment center, about 50 to 60 percent of the patients are high-functioning individuals at the executive level in their careers.

Why is addiction so prevalent among business execs?

The general public may find that statistic to be surprising, but it is in fact a real issue. A person at the executive level often has less downtime to release stress in healthy ways, such as exercise, meditation or relaxing with family. High-powered achievers in the workplace can also be more susceptible to addiction because of increased stress levels that typically accompany demanding work-related responsibilities.

Further, C-Suite level employees are usually more engaged in company marketing events, such as dinners, conferences and various out-of-town meetings that often leave them exposed to opportunities to indulge in alcohol and illicit drugs. Plus, an abundance of work can impinge on downtime activities, disrupting the balance in life that keeps C-Suite professionals mentally sharp, yet relaxed. A lack of work-life balance can eventually trigger unhealthy coping strategies and stress management.

The good news is that advances in research have led to the adoption of innovative, science-based treatment approaches that can enhance employee wellness programs, which can help heal and retain a company’s most valuable asset — their employees.

A Shift in Handling Addiction in the Workplace

Addiction costs corporate America billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, absenteeism and higher health care expenses. The wrath of addiction can derail once-promising careers, divide families and destroy overall physical and mental health. It’s estimated that about 10 percent of employees per company struggle with alcohol or drug abuse. In the C-suite and management circles, early signs of addiction can be difficult to detect at work.

At Enterhealth, we take into account that people at the executive level are typically surrounded by a team of assistants helping them manage projects, as well as their daily workload. While they’re equipped with enough help to continue to achieve goals and targets at work, life at home may be unraveling.

At Enterhealth, it’s fairly common for most executive level patients to come to us only after their addiction has disturbed the normalcy at home and with their family because the C-Suite level addict’s counterparts are there to step in and pick up the pieces at work, masking the warning signs of a much-needed intervention.

For many executives battling alcoholism or drug abuse, the barriers to treatment are rooted in the stigma attached to addiction. The stigma of addiction is very destructive for executives at the top of their career who are too image-conscious to admit there’s a problem, and that it’s time to seek treatment.

But, how can we break addiction stigma in the workforce?

Shifting the way companies view addiction can help change the negative connotation attached to alcohol and drug abuse problems. Once the corporate culture mindset regarding addiction is altered, leaders of companies may feel more comfortable having an open, honest conversation about addiction within the walls of the workplace.

Additionally, it’s in the company’s best interest to help the C-Suite and management team find the right addiction treatment center that can effectively provide the level of care they need over a long period of time. It’s very likely that the company has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into grooming the employee for a position at that level.

So, the best way to break the stigma attached to addiction is for company leaders to understand that addiction is not a moral or character flaw. The latest scientific research, compiled over the last four decades and presented by the National Institute of Health (NIH), defines alcoholism and drug addiction as a treatable, chronic, medical brain disease.

Then, seek science based treatments

At Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence, we took the NIH findings and developed a science-based set of treatments and protocols that are much more effective than traditional 12-step treatment programs. Companies should recognize that addiction is a chronic brain disease, and therefore provide a no judgment treatment plan customized to meet the needs of the C-Suite level employee.

Further, we believe that companies that have an addiction treatment plan in place are not only doing the right thing for their employee by getting them the help they need, it’s also the most cost-effective solution. That can prevent or even improve the bottom line. As the C-level addicted executive’s brain heals, he/she becomes much more efficient and effective at what they do.

Cutting Edge Treatment Geared Towards Executives

Treating the high-functioning addict can be complicated for a number of reasons. Here’s how we work at Enterhealth to meet the challenges.

1. We put executives at ease.

The high-level individual tends to be less trusting and always on guard. To counter skepticism, we develop customized treatment plans for each separate patient designed to reach the C-Suite level addict. It is imperative to take the most comprehensive, individualized approach when treating executives.

2. We address the brain.

Additionally, our skilled doctors and clinicians take into account the fact that the C-Suite level person reached his or her career goals because of brain power, and when addiction is present the individual’s brain is injured, and can no longer operate at its highest potential. Our treatment starts with a complete medical and psychological assessment to create a personalized drug and alcohol addiction treatment plan. As an integral part of this assessment, neurocognitive testing acts as a window, giving our team of addiction specialists a look into the addict’s brain.

3. We create a personalized treatment plan.

After Enterhealth’s team of medical experts determine areas of the brain injured from alcohol or drug abuse, specialists have the tools they need to design a personalized plan to help conquer addiction. The team uses neuropsychology, medication and psychotherapy, along with other scientific, medical breakthroughs that reduce cravings and give time for the brain to heal.

4. We facilitate access to company operations.

Inpatient rehab treatment programs at Enterhealth Ranch are customized to give C-Suite level executives the access they need to participate in company matters from a remote location. We understand that a majority of high-level management team members have a reputation to protect and important business decisions they need to make while receiving treatment for addiction.

5. We employ multiple treatment modalities.

We’re able to personalize treatment plans to meet the needs of the C-Suite level individual without inhibiting the goal of sobriety. Inpatient treatment plans are tailored to incorporate holistic therapy approaches, such as meditation, personal training sessions, massages and one-on-one therapy sessions. We believe that rejuvenating the mind and body, coupled with tailored, science-based treatment plans, can equip the individual with the tools needed to successfully beat drug or alcohol addiction.

Creating a Culture of Transparency

Approaching a C-Suite level executive about suspicions of alcohol or drug abuse probably sounds like an uncomfortable conversation, even for senior level managers. Unfortunately, the reality is addiction is a life threatening disease that cannot be ignored. For the good of this person, and the organization’s investment in him or her, having a relationship with the right treatment provider and action plan in place – before you need it – is the right and smart thing to do for growing and thriving companies of the 21st century.

Got any questions?

If you would like to ask any question, share your feedback or personal experience – feel free to post them in the comments section below. We try to provide a personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries, or if we cannot answer your question we will refer you to someone who can help.

About the author
Dr. Urschel is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Strategist for Enterhealth, one of the finest residential and outpatient treatment programs in the nation. Known as one of the country's foremost authorities on substance abuse and addiction, Dr. Harold Urschel is the author of the New York Times best seller, “Healing the Addicted Brain.” He is a coveted speaker on substance abuse and the latest treatments of the chronic brain disease of addiction on both the local and national stage.
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