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The Correlation of Substance Abuse, Remote Working, and Mental Health

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Employee mental health and wellbeing have been long-standing concerns, even pre-Covid-19. However, one thing's for sure; the number of employees struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse has skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic.

With the remote working setup being a new concept, many employees have been caught unprepared. Some workers have resorted to substance use for comfort and adjustment, while others have become overwhelmed by anxiety disorders, panic attacks, depression, and other mental health problems.  

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the spike in substance abuse among employees is primarily attributed to the pandemic's effect on people's mental health. "Extended social isolation can lead to the development of substance use disorders," NSC officials said.

As an organizational or HR leader, there's no better time to address this issue once and for good than now! Remote working — at least in some capacity — is here to stay, and the necessity to care for employees' mental health has never been more vulnerable.

So the big question is, are you ready and willing to help your employees manage their mental health more effectively during these trying times? Here is a synopsis to help you better understand how to manage these kinds of employee setbacks at the workplace.




As a result of the ongoing government restrictions and the safety concerns raised by many people, we've had a rapid move towards remote working. Even has those restrictions lighten, employers are now allowing their employees to work away from their office premises. Unfortunately, the work-from-home formula has led to a significant increase in employees suffering from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

A recent report by a research and analysis platform, Statista, indicates that 35% of the employees surveyed had a challenge collaborating with their colleagues and clients and also suffered from loneliness. According to the same report, 29% of the respondents lacked motivation when working from home.

This is a true reflection of the anxiety, stress, isolation, and loneliness, among other difficulties that employees are currently going through in the wake of the pandemic's remote working.

Even worse is that managers and team leaders have not had an excellent chance to interact and help employees cope with their mental burdens. And as a result, some employees have gone to the extreme of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to relieve their suffering.



"People are more stressed and isolated, so they make unhealthy decisions, including drinking more and taking drugs." 

That is according to William Stoops, a professor of behavioral science, psychiatry, and psychology at the University of Kentucky. In concurrent with his sentiments, this is an indication of how employees have increased their substance and alcohol intake to deal with the mental health problems they're currently going through.

But contrary to their expectation, that has only worsened their mental health disorders and increased their drug abuse and alcohol intake. And the fact that employees are now working from home, thus less contact or perhaps no contact at all with their managers and colleagues, has only made them hide behind their substance abuse and alcohol addiction.

The New York University School of Public Health reported in January 2021 that 29% of their respondents had increased their alcohol intake during the pandemic. Indeed, we can say that mental health disorders such as stress, characterized by the economic repercussions of Covid-19 and the opportunity to work off offices, have led to a sudden increase in substance abuse and alcohol addiction among employees.




According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), several people with drug/alcohol abuse disorders are also diagnosed with mental health disorders and vice versa. Simply put, there are higher chances that those abusing drugs or alcohol are also suffering from mental health problems such as depression and stress, and the reverse is also true.

Co-occurring disorders (suffering from both a mental health problem and drug abuse) have increasingly been rising, especially during the pandemic. Workers suffering from Covid-19-occasioned distresses are increasingly abusing drugs and alcohol to fight their mental fatigue. Unfortunately, this has worsened the conditions and, in turn, affected their ability to perform well or handle life difficulties.

Indeed, it's irrefutable that the pandemic introduced remote working, resulting in mental health disorders and substance abuse, which has even made the signs and symptoms hard to spot, correct, and treat.



In reality, despite the current reopening of offices and the gradual return to normalcy, remote working and hybrid environments are here to stay. So it's up to you as a human resource leader to ensure that employees get the support they need regardless of their working environment.

The increase in substance abuse and mental health disorders among workers needs to be tackled before it permanently affects their mental wellbeing. Therefore, you utterly must incorporate mental health awareness and treatment in your Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).

By implementing mental health awareness at your workplace, you will be improving workers' productivity as well as ensuring their emotional wellness.  And, of course, that's the thought leadership expected from an HR executive.



Without a doubt, the mental well-being of employees has been seriously affected by the pandemic. As a result, they have not been able to deliver their best and relate well with people and society.

The good news is that you don't need to worry anymore. Employee Recovery is here to help. Irrespective of the working environment, we have the right professionals who can help your employees recover from substance abuse or alcohol addiction, regain their mental wellness, and become highly productive at the workplace.

Employee Recovery, a subsidiary of Landmark Recovery, can seamlessly integrate mental health management in your EAPs for a healthier and safer working environment. Contact us to learn more about leveraging your Employee Assistance Programs to help your staff recover from substance abuse and mental health disorders.


>> Click here to get more information on everything you need to know about EAP mental health resources

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