Blog | Alcohol Abuse

High Rates of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Reported in Restaurant Industry

We’d all like to leave our jobs behind, out of sight and out of mind, at the end of the day. However our jobs have more hold and influence over us than we expect.

Where you work has an impact on how you think and act–or maybe how you think and act affects the job you choose. Either way there is a relationship between your mental health, your physical health, and your career. If you work in the restaurant industry, drug and alcohol abuse may be part of this relationship.

Substance Abuse in the Food Service Industry

Food service employees have high alcohol and drug use rates. If you work or have worked in a restaurant, you’ve probably noticed this first hand.

Scientific studies support these observations. The New York Times[1] shares, “Food service workers have the highest rate of illicit drug use and the third highest rate of heavy alcohol use among major occupations.”

Restaurant industry employees aren’t just some of the heaviest drug and alcohol users. Their lives are the most impacted by this use too. More drinking or using makes abuse, dependence, and addiction more likely. It makes it more likely that these issues will cause problems in individual lives.

The Washington Post[2] explains that to become substance abuse, “substance use would either need to interfere with your ability to do work, or cause you legal trouble or interpersonal problems, or otherwise put you in danger. And again, hotel and restaurant workers show the highest rate of past-year substance abuse problems.”

If you work in the hospitality field, you aren’t just more likely to drink and use. You are more likely to have a problem with this use that requires immediate, professional attention. Once use becomes abuse or addiction, drugs and alcohol begin to impact your life in more, and more serious, ways. Despite consequences, you find yourself continuing to use. You may even drink or use drugs in response to these consequences, attempting to self-medicate stress or anxiety with one of the biggest contributors to this anxiety.

If drug and alcohol use is so serious, why do so many restaurant employees do it? Only miners and construction workers drink more, and no other occupation’s employees use illicit drugs at a higher rate. Demographics help explain substance use in some fields. Construction workers are often young and male, and this group already has higher substance use rates no matter the career involved. Substance abuse in the food service industry can’t be explained away so easily. Statistics show that this relationship isn’t a matter of age or gender.

The Washington Post shares that “Whether young or old, male or female, restaurant and hotel workers are the heaviest drug users in the nation.” This means drugs, alcohol and food service are connected for other reasons.

Bartender serving drinkOne reason for high substance use rates in the restaurant industry may be access. Most restaurants have bars where employees can drink after shifts. They may even be actively encouraged to try new drinks or specials. When more employees use drugs, more drugs are available to purchase through coworkers or their connections. The social environment at restaurants also supports or even encourages alcohol and drug use. Coworkers may meet at bars after work, often some of the only places open at the same late hours individuals are getting off shifts.

Restaurant work is stressful, and some individuals may respond to high levels of stress with substance use. Many people may also enter restaurant jobs with preexisting substance use issues. Few restaurants run background checks or perform drug tests. This makes food service jobs some of the only options available to those with past or present substance use issues. No matter the reason for drinking and drug use in the restaurant industry, substance use is a serious concern for employers and employees alike.

Drug and alcohol use impacts individual lives. It also impacts coworkers and businesses.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration[3] explains, “Substance use negatively affects U.S. industry through lost productivity, workplace accidents and injuries, employee absenteeism, low morale, and increased illness. U.S. companies lose billions of dollars a year because of employees’ alcohol and drug use and related problems.”

Drinking or drug use on the job puts customers, businesses, and coworkers in danger. Treatment helps end this danger. It ends the impact addiction has on your or a loved one’s life. It helps you build a safe, healthy, and sober life. If your recovery needs to involve a new career path, treatment can help with that too. Life skills and job skills training are part of a comprehensive treatment program. Michael’s House makes sure you have all the tools you need for a successful and drug-free future.


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/dining/24sober.html. “Mixing Drinks with Work and Staying Sober, Too.” New York Times. 23 Jun 2009. Web. 4 Apr 2017.

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/29/the-jobs-most-likely-to-make-you-crave-a-stiff-drink-when-the-day-is-done/. “The Jobs Most Likely to Make You Drink.” Washington Post. 29 Apr 2015. Web. 4 Apr 2017.

[3] https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1959/ShortReport-1959.html. “Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 16 Apr 2015. Web. 4 Apr 2017.