Employment outcomes of substance use disorder patients enrolled in a therapeutic workplace intervention for drug abstinence and employment

August F. Holtyn, Forrest Toegel, Meghan Arellano, Shrinidhi Subramaniam, Kenneth Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Poverty is common among people who have substance use disorder. The therapeutic workplace addresses some of the interrelated and chronic problems of poverty, such as unemployment, lack of education and job skills, and drug use. A prior controlled trial showed that the therapeutic workplace was effective in promoting drug abstinence and self-reported community employment in unemployed adults in medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. The current study extends this research by providing a detailed and objective analysis of employment outcomes using objective data abstracted from participants' pay stubs. Secondary analyses examined the types and patterns of employment that participants (N = 44) obtained during the trial, and the extent to which participants gained and maintained financially sufficient employment. Although most participants had relatively long histories of unemployment and underemployment, many participants (n = 26; 59%) obtained employment at some point during the intervention. Most participants worked part time and were employed in low-wage jobs, however. The mean number of hours worked per week was 20.6 h (range 5.5 to 41.3 h per week) and the mean hourly pay was $11.00 per hour (range $9.00 to $15.50 per hour). The most common type of employment was in food preparation and serving-related occupations (e.g., waiters and waitresses, restaurant cooks, and fast food counter workers). Many participants (n = 17; 65%) maintained employment in these jobs over several weeks, while others (n = 9; 35%) were employed sporadically for short durations. Additional supports may be needed for some chronically unemployed adults with substance use disorder to promote consistent employment in well-paying jobs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108160
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Employment
  • Poverty
  • Substance use disorder
  • Therapeutic workplace

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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