About 20.3 million Americans report a substance use disorder (SUD) in the past year. SUD is a medical term that refers to misuse of drugs and alcohol. People generally call SUD “addiction.”

SUD is a chronic, relapsing illness. SUDs include alcohol use disorder (often called alcoholism), opioid use disorder (often in the form of addiction to pain medication or heroin) and disorders involving misuse of other substance. Think of SUD the same way you think of other chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure. With treatment and lifestyle changes, people can manage their illnesses and live productive lives. But the illness, can recur and require a change in treatment, lifestyle, or both.

Most people recover from SUD. Compared to many other medical and psychiatric illnesses, SUD has a good prognosis. About 42% to 66% of people with SUD eventually will never use substances again, although it can take time to reach that point.

An RRW acknowledges and openly addresses the topic of drug and alcohol misuse. This includes:
• Communicating about these issues in a nonjudgemental and honest way to reduce stigma.
• Encouraging employees to discuss substance use concerns and recovery successes in a non-punative setting.
An RRW educates employees and customers about the disease of addiction and treatment resources and options. This includes:
• Training employees on substance use disorders and how stigma in the workplace can affect recovery.
• Preparing supervisors and managers to approach and respond to substance use concerns.
• Providing resources to and access to recovery support services for employees and their families.
An RRW offers policies and practices that support employees who have been impacted by addiction and substance use. This includes:
• Prioritizing safety and well-being.
• Offering supportive policies and accomodations.
• Rethinking hiring standards around gaps in employment, addiction-related justice history, and other considerations.
An RRW prioritize safety by preventing employee exposure to unsafe conditions that could cause injury or illness that contribute to the development or recurrance of SUD.
This includes:
• Observing the highest standards for workplace safety.
• Ensuring the workplace is an emotionally and socially safe and healthy environment for staff.
An RRW improve access to recovery supports by lowering barriers to seeking care for addiction, receiving care for addiction, and maintaining recovery. This requires and open and honest environment where people can ask for help, benefits and policies that allow people to get the highest quality help available for themselves and their family members, and flexibility and support to help people stay well.

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