Job Stress is Manipulative and Substance Abuse Can Take Advantage

Work stress and substance abuse

Maintaining a job can enhance our lives by improving our health and overall mindset toward life because it can give us purpose and satisfaction. Yet, many people face consequential stress in the workplace that can pose a threat to their health, physically and mentally.

According to the American Institute of Stress, in 2022, 83% of US workers reported suffering from work-related stress, with 46% stating it was from work overload.

A workplace can invite stress that increases the risk of burnout, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. In addition, people distressed at work are more likely to engage in destructive and risky behaviors, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and poor dietary choices.

Your career plays a significant role in your life, even when you’re outside of the workplace. Most of our jobs are at the forefront of our minds; we need money for basic survival, so we understand as humans that it’s a necessity in life. Unfortunately, while work can contribute to personal goals and financial stability, it can also contribute to stress – which has the potential to spiral into substance abuse.  

Our Brains Have Weaknesses, Stress Being a Repetitive One

All this to say – everyone has stress. Stress isn’t a concept that’s difficult to understand, but it is challenging to navigate. When you’re under stress, your brain tends to shut down. It knocks on your front door and slithers into the parts of your brain, like your prefrontal cortex, actually reducing its size. This part of your brain is required for memory and learning, so the more stressed you are, the more you’re likely to be forgetful. This process then continues, expanding the amygdala’s size, making your brain more receptive to stress. As a result, our brain begins to shut down the resources we need to function because it feels like it’s in survival mode, which can be extremely dangerous if we’re in that mindset for too long.

Necessary pieces of our brain cease to function under chronic stress, and we then begin to search for how to fill those gaps. Some people start sleeping more, some begin to exercise more, and some may reach for substances that can make them forget their worries or at least aid in calming their nerves. Anxiety can develop if stress hormone levels rise and our calming system, the parasympathetic nervous system, fails to counteract them and keep us emotionally balanced. Anxiety can then cause problems with decision-making.

When enveloped with stressful emotions, we are all responsible for figuring out coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, sometimes those coping mechanisms can turn into substance abuse. Nearly 10% of Americans have a drug use disorder at some point in their lives, but only 25% report receiving treatment. 

So how do we make sure we choose healthy coping skills when overwhelmed? It has much to do with various factors, such as our mindset, circumstances, and genetics. And sometimes, regrettably, all those combined can make us lean towards drugs and alcohol.

Professions with the Highest Rates of Drug Use

A stressful job can often lead to substance abuse. When people feel pressured to constantly meet deadlines or do other things in a hostile work environment, they may turn to a substance like cocaine or Adderall to be more focused and work longer hours. They may also turn to alcohol or opioids to unwind after a tiring day at the office. So not only can work-related stress lead to drug use, but it can also increase the chances of addiction.

On one side of the spectrum, such as construction, many jobs can be physically taxing or dangerous, leading to injuries and chronic pain. Other professions, like healthcare and the law, can be especially mentally or emotionally stressful, impacting your overall well-being. These factors can introduce difficult obstacles and hurdles as we try to navigate and achieve success in each of our ways. 

Once home, we may have a couple of hours of downtime, but in the back of our minds, many people may still be problem-solving, worrying, and thinking about work for the upcoming day. When we’re not able to have space and time away from our job, it has the potential to spill over into family or leisure time, leaving some people struggling to cope with physical or mental stress. 

Here are some of professions with the highest rates of substance abuse:

  • Hospitality and recreation: This is most likely because they’re constantly interacting with people who may not be the easiest to deal with in client-facing situations. This can lead to damage to self-worth and self-motivation. 
  • Construction and mining: This could be due to long shift hours, dangerous injury-causing environments, and stressful, prompt decision-making they make daily.
  • Doctors and healthcare workers: They have the same rates of addiction as the general population – around 10%. Although, they are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than their patients because the opportunity to obtain the drugs is much easier for them.
  • Anesthesiologists have the highest rates of opioid substance abuse; this could be because of the proximity to large quantities of highly addictive drugs and the high-stress environment and expectations they work under.
  • Attorneys are also battling the highest addiction rates, especially the younger generation. Again, another profession filled to the brim with the daunting tasks of law enforcement and quick decision-making skills. 
  • Food service workers remain at high rates since they are typically young and subject to stressful shift work. They may use stimulants to keep them awake during long shifts or to help decrease the stress that comes with customer-facing service jobs. 
  • High-ranking professionals, such as CEO and company owners, do not necessarily abuse drugs or alcohol at substantial rates – but they are some of the most reluctant to seek treatment for fear of missing work and feeling the need to uphold and maintain a specific reputation among their peers. 

Stress Can be an Enemy; Make Sure You’re Equipped.

Finding, keeping, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is not an easy feat. Yet, this is easily one of the most significant and weighty decisions we make in our lives; finding a job that we can prosper in without losing ourselves to it. This means we all need to be aware of our situations and circumstances because we may become blind and numb to the extra work we put in to survive and make it through the day.

If you are suffering from work-related stress, there are many options to help you regulate the pressure, such as:

  • Think about what needs to change to feel more comfortable, and then take action.
  • Speak with your supervisor about your current worries and stressors and see if accommodations can be made.
  • Being organized can help tremendously with stress. If you have multiple tasks in a day, try and take one at a time and keep a list to help you stay up to date.
  • Choose healthier food options to maintain energy throughout your day, drinking at least a half gallon of water every day. 
  • You could try meditation or yoga; breathing techniques are known to lower anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Make sure you set aside time each day to focus on yourself and your wants and needs.
  • Try not to take out your stress on the people closest to you. Instead, explain to them your work issues and ask for their support and suggestions.
  • Seek professional counseling from a psychologist.
  • If work-related stress continues to be a problem, you may need to consider another job or a career change despite your efforts. You can’t continue to work in the same environment that’s making you ill.

Regardless if you have begun using substances to help you through these challenging life moments, therapy and treatment are essential for getting into a better mindset. We can’t control everything, especially our genetics, but we can control our circumstances and the activities we choose to do daily. That’s nearly 50% of pure control you have when navigating stress.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, there is a healthy, attainable end in sight. Pain, confusion, and stress can all feel overwhelming, but our mission is to help you with that, especially if you think you’re struggling alone. Discovery Point Retreat not only prides itself on aiding thousands of people with addiction, but also with co-occurring conditions such as trauma, anxiety, and depression. One simple call could change your life. Call our attentive and responsive team at 855-306-8054 or feel free to contact us online to begin your road to recovery, because you deserve it.


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