Bill White on work

Bill White has long been a champion of making knowledge about addiction and recovery available and accessible to providers and individuals with substance use disorders. In a recent blog entry, he laments the fact that important research about recovery often remains hidden in academic journals, where it’s muddied by difficult jargon and highly specialized language.

When the information is crucial to practical realities of recovery, this communication gap becomes a problem for providers and people needing recovery support and services. In the area of employment and recovery, the communication gap looms large.

Citing a comprehensive 2011 review of international studies on the relationship between employment and substance use, White turns his attention to the negative consequences that unemployment has for those in the recovery process.

  1. Unemployment, particularly prolonged unemployment, heightens the probability of risky alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and the development of AOD dependencies, with these risks being significantly magnified for young adults.
  2. AOD problems heighten the risks of losing [employment] and decreasing one’s odds of re-gaining employment. 
  3. Those in recovery from AOD problems are at increased risk of losing their jobs and being denied employment due to discrimination.
  4. Unemployment following recovery initiation increases the risk of resuming AOD use and experiencing more severe consequences resulting from resumed use.
  5. Unemployed men and women are more likely to smoke and to smoke greater quantities–a concern given the greater risks of AOD resumption and mortality for smokers in recovery from other addictions.

The relationship between unemployment and recovery can be a vicious circle laced with frustration, depression, and discrimination for many people.

Bill White

Bill White

A stable job provides not just income, but also sociability, a schedule, meaning and worth, the exercise of skills and, simply, something to do with one’s time—which is, as White notes, “a major issue at all stages of recovery.“

White ends with a pointed question aimed at the addiction field: “If employment is such a critical factor in recovery initiation and recovery stability, and if addiction treatment programs really are committed to science-informed addiction treatment; then why do we not see vocational education and training programs integrated as a service option within all addiction treatment programs?“

Recommended Resources

Sobriety Through OutPatient (STOP), Inc.: a remarkably diverse treatment program in Philadelphia with educational and vocational training programs