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Op-ed: Red flags that your coworker has fallen prey to addiction during the pandemic

Rachel Graham CEO, and John Edmonson, Director of Wellness, Healing Springs Ranch

Key Points

  • Drug and alchol addiction in the workplace has risen since the pandemic began.
  • The American Medical Association reported that as of August, more than 40 states reported a rise in opioid-related deaths, along with ongoing concerns for those with a mental health or substance use disorder.
  • Rachel Graham is CEO and co-founder of Healing Springs Ranch, an addiction treatment and mental health facility in Tioga, Texas, and a YPO member. John Edmonson, MS-LPC-S, is the company’s director of wellness. The facility has seen a 28% increase in occupancy since the pandemic began and an increase of addiction among executives in the C-suite.

Carlo107 | E+ | Getty Images

Even with the country reopening, many workers and employers are trying to cope with a side effect of the pandemic: a flare-up in alcohol and drug abuse among colleagues.  

With many people’s routines disrupted, stress mounting as working parents try to manage online school, and mental health and addiction treatment services disrupted, we have seen an uptick in calls at our treatment center related to addiction in the workplace. This includes addiction problems among C-suite executives. For some workers, occasional drinking or use of prescription drugs has morphed into dependency. Others who were previously managing addictions successfully have relapsed.

It’s a problem with nationwide implications. Even before the pandemic, 95,158 Americans were dying from causes related to excessive alcohol use annually — based on Centers for Disease Control research from 2011-2015. Since the pandemic, alcohol sales have surged nationwide, Nielsen found, with off-premise sales of alcohol are up 23%.

Meanwhile, deaths from drug overdoses — already at a record high of 71,730 in 2019, according to the CDC — have been spiking in many communities. The American Medical Association reported that as of August, more than 40 states reported a rise in opioid-related deaths, along with ongoing concerns for those with a mental health or substance use disorder. The Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) reported a nearly 17% increase in drug overdoses from March to May 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

If you suspect a colleague needs help with an addiction, it’s always best to reach out early, so they don’t become a statistic. Here are some of the warning signs and suggestions on what to say as you offer help.

1. They’re showing signs of the cycle of addiction.Addictive behavior starts before someone actually uses the addictive substance.Early in the cycle, they may experience a surge in energy as they think about getting a fix of whatever they are addicted to. They may show signs like excitability and rapid speech. As they indulge in the addictive behavior, they may seem euphoric.

Then reality sets in. They may experience regret. Maybe they felt great while drinking or abusing a prescription drug but now they missed an important meeting. The shame cycle begins, and they withdraw and disconnect. Their speech and affect may become flat. When this type of self-loathing sets in, they frequently turn to their substance of choice for relief. Then the cycle starts again. If you work with someone every day who is showing behaviors like this, they could be struggling with an addiction.

2. They’re posting about substances on social media. The memes people post on social media about day drinking are sometimes just jokes, but if a colleague is sharing #drinking memes every couple of days, pay attention. New research by Penn Medicine and Stony Brook University found that people whose Facebook posts frequently used the words “drink,” “drunk,” and “bottle” were more likely to have a diagnosis of alcoholism, and those whose posts used hostile language such as “dumb” or profanity were more likely to be suffering from drug abuse or psychosis.

3. Their physical appearance has changed. Even on video conference calls, it’s possible to observe subtle changes in someone’s appearance that may signal addiction. Someone who normally looks rested may start to have bags under their eyes from staying up late. The coloration of their face may be whiter, or redder. Their pupils may be dilated. Their nose may look raw, a sign they could be snorting a drug.

Some people cover up these signs by keeping their camera turned off. If they once turned on their camera but don’t do it anymore, that may be a warning sign of more than Zoom fatigue.

4. They sound different. Someone who is actively abusing drugs or alcohol may suddenly start pausing for a long time when they speak. That’s an indicator they can’t concentrate. Or they may breathe differently, perhaps taking more rapid breaths. That can reflect the use of certain drugs.

How to approach a colleague you suspect is battling addiction

Some potential warning signs of addiction could have many other causes. It is important to avoid accusations when you approach a colleague who is showing them, in case your hunch is wrong.

Keep any inquiries you make fact-based. For instance, “I’m concerned about you. You showed up at the meeting late, you are slurring your speech, and you divulged confidential information that was not supposed to be shared with the rank and file of the company. Is there something going on?”

If someone does reveal they are struggling with addiction, employers should be prepared to refer them to resources in the community, even if the company doesn’t have a formal employee assistance plan. Keep a list of local clinicians and facilities to which you can refer team members who need help. Workers who don’t have health insurance can tap into resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Online therapy, known as telemental health, is another moderately priced option.

While no one wants to break confidences when a colleague is suffering, it is important to let HR know if someone confides they are slipping back into addiction and they are operating heavy machinery or company cars. Keeping mum exposes the company to liability issues.

Bear in mind that people suffering from alcohol addiction are a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with companies’ responsibilities varying with their size and the role someone plays.

Although employers can ban the use of alcohol in the workplace and discipline someone for coming to work drunk, they must make reasonable accommodations for someone to undergo rehabilitation. Employers cannot fire someone for using illegal drugs if they are no longer using them and either went through rehab or are currently being rehabilitated.

Pandemic-related stress is going to be a fact of life for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for anyone in the workplace to spot problems early and to guide coworkers to any help they need.

—By Rachel Graham, CEO and co-founder of Healing Springs Ranch, an addiction treatment and mental health facility in Tioga, Texas, and a YPO member. John Edmonson, MS-LPC-S, is the facility’s director of wellness.

Rachel Graham of Evolve and Transform Announces the Release of her TEDxAndrews Talk

MCKINNEY, Texas, May 5, 2020,/PRNewswire/ — Rachel Graham of Evolve and Transform Inc. recently spoke at the TEDxAndrews event held on January 25, 2020. The TEDx Talk has recently been released for the public to view: Why Addiction is Everyone’s Disease.

“I am so thrilled to finally get the chance to share my TEDx Talk with everyone.  My personal mission is to educate people, business leaders, students, and professionals to remove the stigma around addiction and compulsive behaviors (of which we all have) while encouraging the audience to find their own purpose through their skills and individual experiences,” said Rachel Graham, President, of Evolve and Transform and President and Co-founder of Healing Springs Ranch.

Launched in 2009, TEDx is a program of locally organized events that bring the community together to share a TED-like experience. Some of the best talks from TEDx events have gone on to be featured on TED.com and garnered millions of views from audiences across the globe.

This is the inaugural TEDxAndrews event in the Waccamaw region in South Carolina. It is important to this community because, too often, small, rural communities are not included in global conversations. However, the Town of Andrews has set out to prove that, not only do small towns deserve to be included in global conversations, but we have beautiful, complex, innovative, exciting, and vital stories to share.

“In recognition of ‘the changes-makers’ and the impact they are having in Andrews and small, rural communities like it all around the world, the theme for the very first TEDxAndrews event is ‘Manifest Destiny.'”

– Danisha L. McClary, Organizer 

About TEDx, x = independently organized event
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, often in the form of short talks delivered by leading thinkers and doers. Many of these talks are given at TED conferences, including our annual gathering in Vancouver, as well as TEDWomen, intimate TED Salons and thousands of independently organized TEDx events around the world. Videos of these talks are made available, free, on TED.com and other platforms. Audio versions of the talks from TED2019 are published to TED’s podcast TED Talks Daily, available on all podcast platforms.

TED’s open and free initiatives for spreading ideas include TED.com, where new TED Talk videos are posted daily; TEDx, which licenses thousands of individuals and groups to host local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; the TED Fellows program, which selects innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities; the Audacious Project, which surfaces and funds critical ideas that have the potential to impact millions of lives; TEDSummit, which gathers the most engaged members of the global TED community for brainstorms, discussions, performances, workshops and an eclectic program of mainstage talks; and the educational initiative TED-Ed. TED also has a growing library of original podcasts, including The TED Interview with Chris Anderson, WorkLife with Adam GrantTED en Español and Sincerely, X.

Follow TED on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TEDTalks, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TED, on Instagram at https://instagram.com/ted and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/ted-conferences.

About Evolve and Transform
Rachel Graham is health entrepreneur, leadership coach and empowering optimist dedicated to educating people, business leaders, students and professionals to find their own meaning and purpose through life challenges, skills and individual experiences by understanding the underlying, and often limiting, behaviors that impede optimal performance personally and professionally.  Rachel is an active and contributing member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and she is a board member of the Travis Frederick’s Blocking Out Hunger Foundation and Executive Board for the Corey Kluber Family Foundation, among other philanthropic organizations. She is also a Executive Board member for Life Works Foundation and Co-founder of Life Works Wellness.   She has been interviewed and featured in various publications, such as Inc Magazine throughout her career, including but not limited to, Inc. 500, Plaid for Women, Stagen Leadership Academy member story, featured on the Coast to Coast Recovery radio broadcast and Coffee with Claire Podcast. 

About Healing Springs Ranch
Tucked away on 80 acres of beautiful and serene lakefront property north of the Dallas Metroplex, HSR offers a truly Integrated Addictions Model, which addresses the underlying issues and unresolved trauma behind most, if not all, self-defeating addictive patterns and co-occurring symptoms and diagnoses.  As an industry leader, HSR is actively involved in conducting on-going research and publication. HSR’s mission is to provide more integrated treatment by offering innovative and cutting-edge therapeutic modalities. HSR currently offers ETT ® (Emotional Transformation Therapy), Trauma Model Therapy, and the BALM ® (Be A Loving Mirror) family recovery program.  Through research, education and quality services, HSR strives to raise the bar for best practice standards, matching the advances in science and technology to address this national epidemic in both the mental health and addiction fields.

Life Works Wellness (LWW) and Life Works Foundation (LWF) (both sister companies to Healing Springs Ranch) are part of the Elevate Global Partners family of wellness companies. Life Works Wellness (LWW) is a new company focused on helping individuals with life balance, optimal performance, purpose, healthy communication skills, and general personal growth.  LWW reaches a broad audience with this powerful mission of a healthy lifestyle and balance for individuals, families, and corporate teams.

Life Works Foundation (LWF) was created to benefit all ages, groups, and professionals to create a greater sense of life purpose and satisfaction.  The goal of LWF is to improve individuals’ mental and physical health by providing preventative measures and treatment.  These include but are not limited to heart disease, cancer, chronic pain, anxiety, addiction, suicidal ideation, PTSD (also referred to as PTSI), and depression, etc. The Foundation focuses on target groups in areas such as productivity, academic and athletic performance, personal and professional relationships, and work-life balance.

orna Stegall, Media Relations
817.807.2257

Rachel Graham Of Healing Springs Ranch To Speak At The Upcoming TEDxAndrews Event – Manifest Destiny

MCKINNEY, Texas, Jan. 9, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rachel Graham of Healing Springs Ranch will speak at an upcoming TEDxAndrews event. TEDxAndrews will take place on January 25, 2020, at The Andrews Dream Center from 4:30 pm-8 pm. The independently organized event, licensed by TED, will feature local voices and TED Talks videos under the theme of Manifest Destiny.  

“I am honored and thrilled to be invited to the TEDxAndrews stage,” said Rachel Graham, President, of Evolve and Transform and President and Co-founder of Healing Springs Ranch

Launched in 2009, TEDx is a program of locally organized events that bring the community together to share a TED-like experience. Some of the best talks from TEDx events have gone on to be featured on TED.com and garnered millions of views from audiences across the globe.

This is the inaugural TEDxAndrews event in the Waccamaw region in South Carolina. And it is important to this community because, too often, small, rural communities are not included in global conversations. However, the Town of Andrews has set out to prove that, not only do small towns deserve to be included in global conversations, but we have beautiful, complex, innovative, exciting, and vital stories to share.

“In recognition of ‘the changes-makers’ and the impact they are having in Andrews and small, rural communities like it all around the world, the theme for the very first TEDxAndrews event is ‘Manifest Destiny.'”
         – Danisha L. McClary, Organizer 

About TEDx, x = independently organized event
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, often in the form of short talks delivered by leading thinkers and doers. Many of these talks are given at TED conferences, including our annual gathering in Vancouver, as well as TEDWomen, intimate TED Salons and thousands of independently organized TEDx events around the world. Videos of these talks are made available, free, on TED.com and other platforms. Audio versions of the talks from TED2019 are published to TED’s podcast TED Talks Daily, available on all podcast platforms.

TED’s open and free initiatives for spreading ideas include TED.com, where new TED Talk videos are posted daily; TEDx, which licenses thousands of individuals and groups to host local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; the TED Fellows program, which selects innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities; the Audacious Project, which surfaces and funds critical ideas that have the potential to impact millions of lives; TEDSummit, which gathers the most engaged members of the global TED community for brainstorms, discussions, performances, workshops and an eclectic program of mainstage talks; and the educational initiative TED-Ed. TED also has a growing library of original podcasts, including The TED Interview with Chris Anderson, WorkLife with Adam Grant, TED en Español and Sincerely, X.

Follow TED on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TEDTalks, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TED, on Instagram at https://instagram.com/ted and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/ted-conferences.

About Healing Springs Ranch
Healing Springs Ranch is an Internationally recognized residential treatment center for adults recovering from all addictions, substance use disorder and other related mental health issues. Tucked away on 50 acres of beautiful and serene lakefront property north of the Dallas metroplex. Healing Springs Ranch enhances the lives of those touched by addiction and related mental health issues through high-quality, innovative and customized client care solutions designed to improve treatment outcomes. For more information visit www.healingspringsranch.com, you may also following us on https://www.facebook.com/healingspringsranch and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/healing-springs-ranch-1a7039122/

Lorna Stegall, Media Relations
817.807.2257
Lorna.stegall@healingspringsranch.com

SOURCE Healing Springs Ranch

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