Blog | Addiction Warning Signs

Could Your Job Be Putting You at Risk for a Substance Abuse Problem?

Addiction is a highly stigmatized disease. A large part of this is due to how the media portrays addicts. As a result, society sees addicts in a decidedly negative light. Unfortunately, this moral persecution makes addicts less likely to seek treatment and encourages medical professionals to treat addicts poorly. This perspective has also led to prejudices toward addicted individuals.[1]

However, the stereotype of an addict applies only to a select few. The widespread belief that an addiction renders individuals unemployed and unemployable is not true. In a recent study, at least 70 percent of all American adults addicted to illicit drugs are currently employed.[2] Additionally, people who lose their jobs due to their substance abuse problems often find new jobs.

A rising number of studies look at the rates of addiction across different jobs and industries. Some addicts choose certain vocations that minimize the possibility of getting fired.Some of the industries with high levels of substance abuse and addiction include food service, healthcare, and law enforcement.[3] This article will focus on these specific areas of vocation.

Hospitality and Food Service Industries

The hospitality industry consists of a pretty broad vocational spectrum that includes fields such as hotel management, theme parks, tourist destinations, restaurants, cruise liners, and fast food. Although the substance abuse issue is a problem for much of the hospitality industry as a whole, food preparation and service are the most affected by substance abuse.

percent of restaurant employees that exhibit problem drinking behaviorAccording to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the accommodations and food service industry has the highest rate of past-month drug use among full-time employees between the ages of 18 and 64 at 19.1 percent. This is more than five percent higher than the arts and entertainment industry, which has the second highest rate of use.3

Rates of alcohol consumption are extremely high, too. In a survey of restaurant employees, it was found that 80 percent of males and 64 percent of females exhibit problem-drinking behavior.[4] However, there appears to be more than one singular reason for this.Many entry-level, fast food and lower-tier restaurant positions have proven less likely to screen job applicants for drugs, which could explain what may be so alluring about this industry to current addicts.

Some experts suggest that the hospitality industries attract the type of person who doesn’t mind a fast pace, late night shifts and an extremely social atmosphere. Alternately, the long, grueling hours of busy establishments can be stressful, which makes employees eager to unwind after work.[5] Some employees have admitted to developing an addiction after getting into the hospitality industry due to the prevalence of alcohol and drug use among their co-workers.

Medical and Healthcare Industries

With almost four million nurses[6] and close to one million doctors[7] actively caring for patients, millions of people have unrestricted, daily access to extremely potent, addictive drugs. And that’s without taking into account other medical professionals like anesthesiologists and pharmacists.

In a recent survey,it was conservatively estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of the medical and healthcare industry workforce will abuse addictive substances at some point in their careers.[8]Fortunately, the rates of actual dependence and addiction among medical and healthcare professionals are approximately congruent to that of the overall population, which is estimated to be one in every 10 American adults.

The issue seems to be that providing medical care, particularly when it’s in emergency situations, is an extremely stressful, fast-paced work environment. Moreover, many of the professionals working in healthcare are deeply affected by some of their patients’ injuries and illnesses, increasing the likelihood that they would seek ways of unloading this stress. There’s a lot of pressure inherent in healthcare work since doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are tasked with delicate procedures and saving lives on a daily basis. It’s also likely that the ready access to opiates, benzodiazepines and other drugs is especially alluring to those who may not be as resistant to temptation as others.

Law Enforcement

percent of law enforcement who abuse alcohol on the jobIt’s no secret that police officers deal with addiction every single day. Many offenders are under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they commit crimes. However, it may be surprising that these individuals—who are leading the charge against nationwide drug problem—experience exceptionally high rates of substance abuse. Before becoming police officers, law enforcement students admit to engaging in alcohol abuse behaviors more frequently than students in other industries at 33.9 percent versus an average of 26 percent. After entering the force, more than 25 percent—or more than one in four—law enforcement officers admit to having abused alcohol while on the job.[9]

The duties of law enforcement are extremely demanding in both physical and psychological ways. Due to the intense encounters they often have with offenders, law enforcement personnel often experience post-traumatic stress. They may begin to treat with alcohol or other substances. And since police officers often socialize with each other outside of the workplace, many of these habits are engendered and shared between them. Police officers are also expected to put themselves in danger in the line of duty, which naturally has emotional repercussions that accumulate faster than they can be alleviated. There is also the potential for officers to become addicted to prescription drugs for work-related injuries.

In some cases, a particular vocation or industry can be conducive to those who participate in substance abuse. It’s important for anyone experiencing workplace stress take the necessary measures that will ensure overall health. But for anyone in these or other industries who is suffering from a substance abuse problem, remember that help is never more than a phone call away. If you would like to get treatment for your substance abuse problem or would just like to ask some questions about how the treatment process works, please call us now at 760-548-4032.

[1] The Fix. The Deadly Stigma of Addiction. Juman, Richard. Published on December 5th, 2012.

[2] Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace.

[3] Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry. Bush, Donna.

[4] Dimensions of Problem Drinking among Young Adult Restaurant Workers. Moore, Roland. March 1st, 2010.

[5] Nosh Pit: Drug, alcohol abuse common in restaurant industry. Macias, Chris. Published on May 8th, 2015.

[6] Number of Professionally Active Nurses

[7] Professionally Active Physicians

[8] Impaired Healthcare Professional. Baldisseri, MR.

[9] Why Alcohol Can Be Dangerous For Police Officers. Becker, John. Published on July 27th, 2016.


Written by Dane O’Leary