5 Career Paths That Lead to Higher Rates of Addiction

Profession that has the highest rate of alcoholismSome career fields seem to have a large number of people who engage in substance abuse or who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. One high-profile example is the entertainment industry, where actors, musicians, producers, and many others in the field have been in the news for drug abuse, or illness or death due to drug abuse. However, this is not the only career field that tends to have high rates of addiction.
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Research summarized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), from data gathered between 2008 and 2012, shows the following career types tend to have high rates of drug abuse and addiction:

  1. Hospitality and food service
  2. Construction and mining
  3. Arts and entertainment
  4. Business management
  5. Healthcare

How these careers contribute to a tendency toward addiction, and the prevalence of addiction in these industries, is discussed in further detail below.

First, Some Details about Stress

What many of the career fields described below have in common is a high level of job-related stress. While it is certainly not the only reason that people start chronic use of drugs or alcohol, stress is a major factor in substance abuse.

Research from the journal Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences demonstrates that stress has an effect on the dopamine, glutamate, and GABA systems in the brain – chemical pathways that govern reward and pleasure, stimulation, and relaxation in the body. When stress disrupts these pathways, it can contribute to the uncomfortable emotions and physical sensations that we identify as the stress response, including:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Helplessness

Start chronic use of drugs or alcohol for job stressMany drugs of abuse also interact with these chemical systems, helping to relieve the stress response. It’s no surprise then that many people who experience chronic stress will also begin chronic abuse of drugs or alcohol in an attempt to “self-medicate” and manage the stress.

Of course, resorting to drug abuse that can lead to addiction is a dangerous path to take. Addiction takes a strong toll on the body and can lead to illness, injury, or overdose that can result in death. For this reason, it is helpful for anyone experiencing chronic, job-related stress to find other paths to managing that stress. For those already caught in the loop of drug abuse or addiction, help is available through professional, research-based treatment that can help you begin the journey toward recovery.

1. Hospitality and Food Service

As reported by Restaurant Business Online, the hospitality industry – this covers hotels, restaurants, and other places that provide food and lodging to patrons – is the most likely of all career fields to have high rates of drug abuse and addiction among employees, particularly regarding illegal drugs. In fact, about one in five hospitality workers engages in illicit drug use. In addition, these personnel also have high rates of alcohol abuse and prescription drug abuse.

This high prevalence may be attributable to late working hours, low pay, and the need to consistently provide a high level of customer service, creating a need to be positive and helpful at all times.

2. Construction and Mining

The construction and mining fields are high-risk, dangerous careers that have high rates of alcoholism – higher than those for the hospitality industry. In fact, 15 percent of construction workers use illicit drugs, while 18 percent engage in chronic alcohol use that can interfere with the job. As reported by Construction Executive Risk Management magazine, this can be a deadly combination, leading to high rates of injury, illness, and fatal accidents on the job site.

Many of these employees are afraid to speak up about their substance use issues because of fear of losing a job. However, workplaces that have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help those employees find the resources needed to get treatment or other help, and get back on the job, drug-free.

3. Arts and Entertainment

As mentioned above, arts, entertainment, and recreation careers have a high risk of substance abuse. As demonstrated in the SAMHSA report, people working in these industries have the fourth highest rate of alcohol abuse at 11.5 percent and the second highest rate of illicit drug abuse at 13.7 percent. They also have the third highest rate of diagnosed substance use disorders.

These careers tend to attract creative people who may have other mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Performance is a high-stress activity, where individuals are putting themselves on display for others to judge. This creates a high level of stress. In addition, the need to look perfect all the time can lead to using drugs in order to control appetite or deal with pain induced by wearing uncomfortable costumes or performing physically challenging activities. Sports professionals can be included in this category as well.

Many artists or performers may also get involved in drugs because of peer pressure within the field. It can be challenging to work in a field where drug or alcohol abuse is common without getting involved.

4. Business Management

It’s no mystery that being involved in managing a high-powered business is a great source of stress. In fact, people who are involved in management are ranked as the fifth highest group diagnosed with substance use disorders. Substance use is also on the rise in this career path.

Many high-level managers, such as CEOs and other big business personnel, have trouble balancing the need to get help for substance abuse and the need to keep managing their business to prevent major problems with commerce and economy. As a result, a number of drug treatment programs offer executive-level programs that enable these people to continue doing business while attending rehab. These programs also maintain a high level of confidentiality about the person’s involvement in the program.

5. Healthcare

It may seem surprising that drug abuse is a major problem in the healthcare field. Particularly for nurses, but for all levels of heath care treatment, drug abuse can be a challenging issue.

An article from Modern Medicine refers to drug abuse in the nursing profession as a quiet epidemic. In fact, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing has quantified that, while the addiction rate among nurses is similar to that of the general population at about 10 percent, nurses with more stressful or emotionally taxing roles, such as emergency room nurses or those who work in critical care, oncology, or psychiatric care, are more prone to using addictive substances from cigarettes to cocaine. Nurses who work in anesthesia departments have addiction rates exceeding 15 percent. Doctors are also more prone than some would hope to use or abuse drugs or alcohol.

In some ways, this trend is based on easy access to drugs. Combining this with a high degree of stress in medical jobs puts these professionals at risk of drug abuse and addiction.

Help Is Available

No matter the profession, if drug abuse or addiction is present, it is possible to get help through a reputable, research-based treatment program. With the right help, professionals in any career can get back on their feet and back to work, safely and in recovery.

Further Reading On This Topic

Addiction Demographics by Profession

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