Pre-employment Issues for Persons in Recovery

Breathalyser,Urine Drug TestMany people in recovery feel that they will be unable to hide their drug use from potential employers. They mistakenly believe that there is a big sign on their forehead with the words “Addict” imprinted for everyone to see. In reality, there is nothing about outward appearance that would suggest their recovery status.

Disclosure considerations

There is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether persons in recovery should reveal their drug use history to potential employers. Because prior drug use is not easily detectable, it is essential that both advantages and disadvantages be thoroughly considered when beginning a job search.

Many persons in recovery prefer not to reveal their drug history and disclosure can actually be problematic for both the employer and job seeker in light of possible legal consequences centering on discrimination, as well as possible stigmatisation within workplace.

It is important for persons in recovery to review the benefits of disclosure with vocational counselors in terms of fitting in with the team and job retention (i.e., identifying possible triggers for relapse).  For example, a job seeker may need to focus on those jobs that offer flexible work hours or that involve routine and low-stress responsibilities. Alternatively, disclosure is a good idea if the candidate things s/he will need to phone a counselor for support during especially challenging situations.   Also a consideration is at what point during the hiring process, the candidate should disclose their drug history and deciding who needs to know. During initial phone screens, it may not be necessary to disclose prior drug use since this interview is typically exploratory in nature. However, disclosure is appropriate if invited into the office for an in-persons meeting with the hiring manager (and potential supervisor).

Developing a vocational plan

In many cases the person in recovery will be working with a vocational counselor to develop and individualised vocational plan based on needs, interests, abilities, and career goals.  Vocational planning should be flexible in nature and reassessed in light of the results of skills and interest inventories. Other measures that go into the mix include prior work or volunteer experience, as well as any barrier to employment (housing, child care, co-occurring medical conditions, specific triggers, etc.) It is also important to make full use of the person’s existing network so they may offer support  in the realisation of vocational goals.

Flexibility is also important when engaging in a search. It may take longer for a person in recovery to obtain employment due to ‘slips”(as opposed to full blown relapse) or such self-sabotaging behaviour as missed interview, showing up late to interviews, or even turning down job offers (such self-sabotaging behaviours are usually the result of unexpressed fears and insecurities). Vocational counselors need to develop trust-based relationships with clients so that s/he is comfortable discussing all barriers to job search.

An effective individualised vocational plan will include a discussion of the following:

  • Avoiding work situations that may set triggers for relapse (stress, late nights, working where alcohol is served, etc.)
  • An evaluation of the pros and cons of high-paying jobs frequently associated with drug or alcohol use, such as construction or brokerage.
  • The job seeker’s pattern of past drug or alcohol use. For example, if the person used drugs primarily during the evening hours, it is probably better to identify employment opportunities that offer a morning or afternoon schedule.
  • Providing the job seeker with essential linkages to community services for housing, along with counseling in the area of financial management.
  • Encouraging the job seeker to explore employment with companies that test for substance use as a condition of employment.

Many employers now regularly utilise drug testing during the hiring process and also monitor employee drug use with intermittent (and unannounced) testing.  Identifying drug use enables both employers and treatment counselors to proactively address the situation before it leads to poor job performance and eventual dismissal. CMM Technology offers some of the best drug and alcohol testing equipment on the market today such as Lion breathalyser and Oraline drug tests. We have experts available to answer your questions and order testing equipment. We invite you to contact us today at (+61) 1300 79 70 30 to learn more about how your program may monitor drug use among employees.


Becker D.R, Drake R.E and Naughton W.J 2005, Supported employment for people with co-occurring disorders, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, vol.28, no.4, pp.332-336. N.p, n.d.

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