Addiction professionals urge employers to work with people in recovery.

With the workforce small and the number of people in recovery on the rise, people who treat and coach substance abusers say the time has come for hiring managers to see people in recovery as an opportunity and not a threat.

There is fear on both sides, says Marc Burrows, program manager for Challenges Inc., an addiction outreach service. Employers are worried about liability and employees "are terrified" of being found out, he said.

"In most cases, people in recovery are too scared to inform their employer of their addiction. Rightfully so, due to the stigma and discrimination that often exists," Burrows said. "People in recovery might think that their employer would see them as a liability."

But according Rich Jones of FAVOR Greenville, it may be at least as risky to hire someone with no apparent history of drug abuse and recovery.

A percentage of your workforce already has a substance dependency, said Jones, CEO of FAVOR, which calls itself the community's welcome center to recovery. FAVOR Faces and Voices of Recovery works with individuals struggling with addiction, as well as their families and, increasingly, employers.

According to FAVOR, 70% of people struggling with substance use are employed full time and 46% of Americans have a relationship with someone who has struggled with addiction in the last year.

In short, Jones said, chances are employers with a sizable workforce are already employing people somewhere on the spectrum between drug abuse and active recovery.

"The honest-to-God truth is they (employers) have people working with them right now that are more risky than the recovering person," he said. "If you look at it like that you would rather have someone in recovery who's dealing with it rather than someone in a cat-and-mouse situation trying to get away with it."

Dependency and recovery and the fear of relapse make for a difficult conversation at work, Burrows said, and it is important for employers to remember that a person's addiction status is medical information that workers are not obligated to share.

That said, "I think the best thing a worker can do to reassure their employer is to be honest about their situation once established as an employee," he said. "In most cases it would probably be beneficial for both parties to communicate about this."

Most people who develop a drug dependency struggle with relapse and recovery, especially in the early going, according to Burrows. Specialists in the treatment industry...

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