Does Job Burnout Lead to Substance Misuse?

This article was written by Nitara Osbourne and published by American Addiction Centers


It’s part of the human condition to get exhausted emotionally, physically, and mentally. Whether that exhaustion comes from a high-pressured career, the logistics of navigating through a global pandemic, or managing conflicts within relationships throughout life. Why do some individuals work to the point of complete exhaustion and perhaps turn to alcohol, prescriptions, or illegal drugs as a means to cope with the weariness? Perhaps burnout does lead to substance misuse. And then there are others who may handle their feelings of burnout in more healthy ways.

The World Health Organization updated its definition, and references burnout as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Symptoms include:

  • Reduced professional productivity.
  • Energy exhaustion or depletion.
  • Increased negative feelings towards one’s career or increased mental distance from one’s job.

If you’re battling with an addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, or even illicit drugs due to relapsing or burnout, you’re not alone. There are resources available to help you. American Addiction Centers (AAC), a nationwide leader in addiction treatment, provides medical detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment in a supportive environment under licensed medical professionals, sober living, and aftercare planning. If you’re struggling, please reach out for the help that you need today.


Substance Misuse Due to Job Stress

Many individuals get stressed on a job. This can be for several different reasons. Perhaps the stress is caused by the fear of losing the job. An individual who may have family depending on them for their livelihood may cause the individual to feel pressured and inevitably stressed out by the weight of the responsibility.

Perhaps an individual’s primary job doesn’t pay enough to cover their household expenses. This person may pick up a second or third job, or side hustle as it’s often referred to. Juggling family life and multiple jobs can be stressful and may even lead to burnout.

And then there are others who may face stress from doing the actual job itself. For example, surgeons, firefighters, or other professions that require the responsibility of holding another individual’s life in their hands.

One of the variables that ignites substance misuse is stress related to work. This leads to absenteeism, injury, theft, a decrease in productivity, and even loss of life itself.

According to an article in U.S. News and World Report, the contributor discovered some alarming statistics from The National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Workplace statistics:

  • Out of the 14.8 million Americans who consume illegal drugs, 70% are employed at minimum part-time.
  • 20% of employees and managers report that a co-worker’s alcohol consumption put their own safety at risk.
  • As of September 2016, 24% of employees reported consuming alcohol during the workday at least one time within that past year.
  • Employees who misuse alcohol are 2.7 times more likely than their non-drinking counterparts to experience absences related to injuries.

Stress is real. Exhaustion and burnout can happen. And perhaps, for some individuals, turning to alcohol or drugs seems like an immediate remedy. However, in the end, it’s not a healthy or sustainable solution.

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