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Alcoholism and Addiction in Corporate Leadership

Dec 7, 2020

When you picture someone with a substance use disorder, you may think of the homeless man or woman begging for change on the street or the person you read about in the paper arrested for theft. This stereotype is untrue and dangerous. Additionally, it only fuels stigma.

Addiction does not respect an individual’s social status or net worth.

According to “Managing Your Recovery from Addiction: A Guide for Executives, Senior Managers, and Other Professionals” by O’Connell, Carruth, and Bevvino, approximately 10% of individuals in leadership roles are suffering from a substance use disorder. Corporate leadership has a severe substance dependency issue.

Anyone can suffer from addiction, including successful CEOs and business executives.

Unfortunately, this problem is often poorly managed or overlooked entirely. Boards and companies may lose millions of dollars by ignoring the issue due to bad decision making, reduced organizational effectiveness, and lost productivity. Approaching and addressing the issue of addiction with corporate leaders is extremely difficult. Leaders have flexible schedules, high levels of wealth, and little direct supervision making it easier for them to hide their use.

A lack of local accountability for individuals in upper levels of leadership can be dangerous.

Leadership professionals may be shielded from their employees knowing of their substance use issues. For example, suppose a subordinate noticed a problem. They may not confront their supervisor out of fear since people in corporate leadership are influential individuals who may impact their professional future negatively. By the nature of their influential positions, business leaders who demand loyalty may discourage employees from questioning their behavior.

The ability to conceal drinking or drug use makes identifying problems with leaders difficult.

Professional leaders have outstanding personal social and management skills; they are problem solvers and risk-takers. If those same skills mask drinking or drug use, it may be impossible to tell a problem from the outside. A typical description used is that the person is a “high-functioning” alcoholic or addict. Some would say the phrase should be “still functioning.” Many people can hold down a good job while still drinking or using. They seem to have a happy home life and appear normal while suffering from a substance use disorder.

Fortunately, corporate culture has started recognizing the risks to professional leaders.

Many corporations now support treatment and recovery. Individuals no longer have to suffer from the stigma of having a substance use disorder and can get the professional help to heal and recover that everyone deserves.

HeadWaters at Origins is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-270-1753.


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