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Employers Addressing Alcohol Problems Save By

Detecting and Dealing with Problems Early

Alcohol problems occur along a continuum. Many people don't seek treatment on their own until they have serious problems and are in acute need of medical care. But finding and treating alcohol problems before they get out of hand are much more effective and less costly to businesses and to workers.

Screening

An effective start is asking about drinking. Screening makes early intervention possible. Each year, companies and government agencies sponsor a National Alcohol Screening Day. In 2009, it was on April 9th. Thousands of physicians, and hundreds of companies large and small offer educational materials and confidential screening for alcohol problems.

More than 20 countries, including the U.S., use a simple 10-question test, the Alcohol Use Disorders Inventory Test (AUDIT), to identify problem drinkers. The online AUDIT provides immediate feedback to the user, comparing his use against national guidelines and suggesting what can be done. You can use a confidential, online or a printable AUDIT. Screening can be as simple as asking the first three questions on the AUDIT on company-sponsored health risk appraisals:

  • How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
  • How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?
  • How often in the last month do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?

For males, more than 14 drinks per week, or one or more times of heavy drinking, suggests possible hazardous drinking; for females, more than seven drinks in a week, or one occasion drinking four or more drinks, suggests possible hazardous use. Questions about alcohol use can be part of Health Risk Appraisals (HRAs) or standard intake forms for corporate wellness programs that ask employees about a broad range of health concerns such as glaucoma and hypertension. Your Employee Assistance Program or employee health unit can use the AUDIT or similar alcohol questions when employees seek help for stress, depression, marital difficulties and other problems that can be alcohol-related.

Use these tools for screening

A free, confidential online alcohol screening is available at www.alcoholscreening.org.
Alcohol Screening: A Quick First Step to Reduce Problem Drinking tells how some employers have set up screenings.

Brief Treatment

People with alcohol problems typically fall into one of two categories:

Problem drinkers may benefit from brief interventions. These brief counseling sessions can be conducted in five or fewer encounters lasting less than 20 minutes. Often, the best people to provide this treatment are staff of the company's Employee Assistance Program or doctors. Many research studies have demonstrated that problem drinkers respond well to brief treatment, reducing their drinking and changing risky behaviors such as drinking and driving. For people who are dependent on alcohol, brief interventions can be very helpful in motivating them to get started with treatment and stick with it. Company awareness campaigns help problem drinkers to understand that recovery can be within their reach. Each September, for example, the federal government makes available to businesses posters, brochures, fact sheets and videos so that companies can participate in National Addiction and Alcohol Recovery Month.
Find out more about brief interventions.

Other Resources

Alcohol Use Disorders Inventory Test (Use this version to interview someone else)
Alcohol Use Disorders Inventory Test (Use this version to screen yourself)
To locate treatment programs in your community

Increasing Awareness

Promoting Health and Wellness
Establishing and Disseminating Treatment-Friendly Workplace Policies

Other Solutions

Improve Alcohol Treatment Health Insurance Benefits
Assist Employees Facing Alcohol Problems