Workit Health Blog

Saul Allen

Recent Posts

News, For Employers

Addictive Behaviors and Cultures of Health in the Workplace

Too often, addictive behaviors are often understood purely as individual pathology: a problem afflicting a person, albeit a concern with familial, social and employment consequences. When we widen the lens, however, we can see the broader cultural contexts that encourage or inhibit individuals from engaging in these behaviors. The role of the workplace in affecting alcohol and other drug use is an important site for the development of this understanding. This short piece will introduce you to some of the cultural factors that promote or protect against addictive behaviors in the workplace.
To say that your company culture supports addictive behaviors is, emphatically, not to say that you or any other decision maker actively condones unhealthy relationships to alcohol, drugs or other compulsive behaviors. The language of enabling used to be common in the literature on addiction.1 The enabler is the person who emotionally, materially or tacitly supports the individual in continuing her or his addictive behaviors. This idea retains tremendous popular usage in mutual-support societies and in communities of treatment organized in concert with those societies. But there is a lot of judgment and personalization at work in the language of “enablers.” It assigns moral culpability to the people responding to the challenge as well as to the individuals struggling with the challenging behaviors. Instead of a personal failing, we can profitably think of cultures as enabling or inhibiting, risk-elevating or minimizing, promoting addictive behaviors or promoting substance wellness.

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News, For Employers

Substance Wellbeing: The Value of Prevention

Let’s take a look at a significant opportunity concerning substance wellbeing in the workplace: prevention. If we can reach people earlier in the progression of their struggles with alcohol and other drugs, we can improve outcomes, avoid downstream consequences, and help individuals re-direct their energies towards thriving at their place of employment.

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News, For Employers

Substance Wellness: Rethinking Substance Use Treatment and the Role of Employers

Workit Health understands itself, its program and its membership as contributing to a recent and important cultural shift in behavioral health. There is an ongoing evolution from a value-laden and moralizing understanding of addictive behaviors towards a more nuanced view that is both empowering and scientific. We are hardly alone in this. Maia Szalavitz opens her rightly lauded Unbroken Brain with an author’s note about language: her ardent desire to replace stigmatizing and dehumanizing language with terms like “person with addiction,” emphasizing the humanity and the complexity of her subjects. She similarly advocates for “substance misuse” in place of “drug abuse,” given the negativity associated with “abuse.” For closely related reasons, Workit Health treats addictive behaviors, rather than addicts or alcoholics. Many members of the Workit family may not identify with the imagined severity of the condition popularly meant by words like “addict” or “alcoholic.” Instead, these members want to manage their relationship to substances outside of the larger frame of an identity: “drinking less” for instance, not“recovering from alcoholism.” But this choice in language is also part of a deep commitment.

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