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Substance use management: A personalized approach to health and well-being



We’ve all heard of terms such as “addiction” or “substance abuse” to talk about challenges that some people have managing their use of substances. Fortunately, such outdated and stigmatizing terms are changing in favor of more accurate, descriptive and less stigmatizing terms such as “substance misuse” or “substance use disorder.”

But what exactly does the term “substance use management” mean when it comes to dealing with substance use disorders?

At its core, substance use management is all about better health and healthier substance use based on individual health, habits, genetics and goals — but without the excess baggage of fear, shame and societal stigma that breaks down lines of communication and blocks access to care.

Whether it’s quitting, cutting back or just living a healthier lifestyle overall, substance use management embodies a personalized approach to substance use that’s accessible for employees or health plan members.

Effective substance use management that engages your workforce leads to an understanding of the impacts of substance use on one’s body and managing that use to a healthy state. It also saves costs and improves health outcomes for employers.

The substance use crisis

Substance use has become a pressing national issue with far-reaching consequences. Drug overdoses in the U.S have exceeded 100,000 annually and are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with opioids as the most common drug involved. 

The impacts of substance misuse go far beyond any one individual to include their families, employer and communities. As borne out in our Pelago 2023 Annual Substance Use Management Survey, about 1 in 6 U.S. workers report missing work because of a personal substance or alcohol use problem. However, when we factor in workers impacted by a family member’s substance use problem, the number rises to nearly half of all workers being affected.

Add in the growing direct and indirect costs of tobacco, alcohol and drug use — highlighted in new CDC data — and it’s increasingly clear the nation’s employers carry a significant burden and responsibility in making substance use management a societal priority.

Employers have a unique role to play in addressing substance use issues. It’s also a tremendous opportunity to make a positive difference. Employers can serve as an efficient channel for addressing the problem at scale by implementing platform-based, highly personalized and on-demand substance use management programs. These programs should be designed to provide comprehensive support to employees, leveraging the expertise of dedicated medical professionals and utilizing a range of tools and resources.

There’s a significant opportunity to leverage telehealth and virtual care through personalized substance use management delivered digitally. Traditional approaches such as inpatient rehabilitation can cost from $12,000 to $60,000 on average for 60- to 90-day programs. In addition to cost, these programs also threaten confidentiality and are often handled as out-of-network expenses. By adopting a personalized, digital approach, employers can empower their employees to manage their substance use challenges discretely and in a way that aligns with their specific needs, goals and circumstances.

Education, a holistic approach and evidence-based treatment

A crucial component of substance use management is education and awareness. Many individuals may be unaware of the risks and consequences associated with substance use. By providing comprehensive education programs, employers can boost engagement and help their employees make informed decisions about substance use. These programs can cover a wide range of topics, including the short-term and long-term effects of substance use, strategies for harm reduction and available resources for seeking help.

Furthermore, a holistic approach to substance use management encompasses not only the individual but also their support network. For employers, this can mean facilitating the involvement of family members in the process, recognizing that their support and understanding play a crucial role in an individual’s journey towards healthier substance use habits.

The gold standard for substance use management is medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines medication with intensive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and social support, an approach endorsed by all leading global health organizations. Employers can collaborate with healthcare providers to ensure that employees have access to appropriate MAT and CBT services, particularly those delivered digitally, promoting accessible, confidential treatment and recovery while reducing the negative impacts of substance use on overall well-being.

By providing comprehensive education, personalized care and medication-assisted treatment leveraging the latest digital technology, employers can promote healthier substance use habits and contribute to the well-being of their employees and society as a whole.

Pelago is the world’s leading virtual clinic for substance use management. We are transforming substance use support — from prevention to treatment — delivering education, management skills and opportunities for positive change to members struggling with substance use, most commonly tobacco, alcohol or opioids. Visit for more information. 

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