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IS Your Career Endangering Your Sobriety?


December 7, 2017

The use of alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit substances affect industries in the United States in countless ways. Productivity can drop, accidents and injuries in the workplace can rise, and absenteeism can increase. Subtler are effects like low workplace morale and increased rates of illness.
The hospitality industry has some of the highest rates of alcohol and drug use.

The hospitality industry has some of the highest rates of alcohol and drug use.

Ultimately, American companies lose billions of dollars each year due to employee use of alcohol and drugs and problems related to them. Some professions include higher rates of drug and alcohol use, and even within some professions, the differences can be significant among subspecialties. For example, among physicians, emergency room doctors have the highest rates of illicit drug use, while pediatricians and surgeons have the lowest rates.

No industry is immune to the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, so whatever your profession, you can be assured you are not the first or the last to deal with recovery 24 hours at a time. In some cases, however, retraining or changing careers may be the smartest move for continued sobriety.

Industries with the Highest Rates of Alcohol Use

According to a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), heavy alcohol use among adults ages 18 to 64 who are employed full time is most prevalent in the mining, construction, and hospitality industries.

In the mining industry, the good news is that there are relatively low rates of illicit drug use. Reasons for the prevalence of alcohol use are believed to include the roster systems used to schedule miners, where two or three weeks of work are followed by a week of leave. Construction requires hard physical labor and long hours, often at unpleasant work sites, and alcohol may be one way workers self-medicate or deal with work-related stress.

In the hospitality industry, the high-stress environment, low wages, high turnover, irregular hours, and relative youth of the workforce are believed to be behind high rates of drinking.

Industries with the Highest Rates of Illicit Substance Use

The hospitality industry leads all industries in terms of illicit drug use, most likely for the same reasons that industry experiences high rates of alcohol use (high stress, low wages, irregular hours, young workforce).

The arts and entertainment industry is another one with high rates of illicit substance use, also due to long hours and high pressure, plus workplace conditions that may facilitate illicit drug use.

Managers and executives may be able to hide substance abuse longer than other workers.

“Management” is the third industry with one of the highest rates of illicit drug use, but the reasons behind it are different. Many senior managers do not fear losing their jobs due to addiction, or are wealthy enough that being fired is not that big a threat. They may turn to illicit substances out of a belief that they are “indispensable” and cannot miss work.

Industries with the Highest Rates of Substance Abuse Disorders

Not surprisingly, the industries with the highest rates of substance use are also the industries with the highest rates of substance abuse disorders. The industries with the highest rates of workers with substance abuse disorders are hospitality industries like food services, hotels, and bars. The reasons discussed above that account for high usage rates are also implicated in the high rates of addiction among workers. Moreover, food service businesses are likeliest to hire people who have served jail or prison time for drug offenses.

The construction industry is another one with high levels of substance abuse disorders, with the primary reason often being self-medication for persistent injuries or stress. The arts and entertainment industry is the third industry with high rates of substance abuse disorders, primarily due to workplaces where it is easier to get away with using drugs.

Should You Consider Changing Careers?

Unless you are fired or lose the necessary licensing or credentials to work in a particular field, it is ultimately up to you whether you should change careers. Some people in addiction recovery are able to go back to their former career and thrive, even if they regularly come into contact with people who use their substance of choice.

For other people, addiction recovery simply is not possible without a change in career. If you suspect that you are one of them, you are wise to talk to your substance abuse counselor or mental health counselor about your options for retraining. Changing careers may end up being a positive step in your addiction recovery, allowing you a fresh start free from substance use.

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