This week’s guest blog is Workplace Stress and Addiction by Steps to Recovery.
Workplace Stress as a Trigger for Addiction
For many people the stereotypical image they have of an addict is someone who is unemployed and homeless. However, Government figures show that this is far from the case. Indeed, a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that while the incidence of substance abuse is higher among people who are not in employment, overall the majority of people abusing alcohol or drugs are working(1).
Their data shows that of the 19.6 million adults of working age with a substance misuse disorder 72% are employed compared to 11% who are seeking work and 17% who are not in the labor market. Although many factors can trigger substance abuse and dependency, stress is a known contributor to heavy drinking and drug taking, so work related stress may help to explain why so many employees suffer from addictions to ecstasy. While reliance on alcohol abuse and drugs can have serious implications for workers and their employers, learning to manage stress and the availability of workplace interventions can reduce the risks of substance abuse.
Which Sectors Are Most Prone to Addiction in the Workplace?
While rates of substance misuse are perhaps higher than expected among the workforce, working in some industries appears to place you at greater risk of drinking heavily or abusing drugs. Previous research on substance abuse among workers found that when it came to drinking and drug taking, the following sectors were more likely to have employees with substance misuse problems(2):
|Ranking||Industry||Percentage of Workers Abusing Alcohol|
|2||Arts, entertainment & recreation||13.6|
Although the reasons behind substance dependency are multi-factorial, it is plausible that in some of the industries above there is a link between stress and substance abuse in the workplace, as work related stress is highly prevalent with the CDC reporting that 40% of workers feel very or extremely stressed(3). For instance, heavy workloads and long hours are known to contribute to job stress, which are potentially applicable in any sector, particularly when staff shortages and poor management are an issue. Shift work is also a recognized stressor, which is often a requirement when working in hospitality, support services and heavy industries. Job security and concerns about career progression is additionally a widespread problem, but this is sometimes felt most among the creative industries, and can add to work stress. Employment that doesn’t utilize someone’s range of skills can lead to frustration and in an administrative position with little chance for flexibility or self-initiative this can result in a different type of stress.
Even though substance abuse is less prevalent among other industries, it is still an issue, even among those that you might least expect. For example, around 6% of those working in health and social care take drugs for recreational purposes and 4% abuse alcohol. Understanding of the dangers of substance abuse among these employees is high, but is not sufficient to deter them from these destructive behaviors when under pressure at work, and the nature of their work means they are more likely to misuse prescription drugs. This is possible via self-prescription by physicians and for those nurses involved in administering drugs to patients(4). Professionals working in the legal sector are also at risk of substance dependency, with extensive hours and intensive work contributing to stress and its associated drinking and drug taking(5).
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