Job Stress and Substance Abuse

By Richard Asa @YourCareE
July 26, 2023
Job Stress and Substance Abuse

A few drinks once in a while to blow off steam over job stress can provide some relief. But 33 percent of workers show signs of drinking during the workday.

Happy hour at the end of the workweek is one way to blow off some steam, but one third of Americans show signs of drinking during the workday. Meanwhile, 22 percent of people say they have used drugs at work.

Some of the reasons include:

  • Work pressure
  • Peer pressure
  • The job itself
  • A lack of good coping skills
  • A cycle of work stress, substance abuse, poor performance, and more abuse


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Some jobs just go hand in hand with substance abuse. They include:

  • Mining and construction
  • First response
  • Management
  • Real estate
  • Transportation
  • Food service
  • Nursing

About 25 percent of Americans report experiencing high levels of stress, according to the American Institute of Stress. People deal with stress in different ways. Some might meditate, exercise, or occupy themselves with a fulfilling hobby that’s relaxing.

But you might turn to abuse of alcohol and drugs. Several studies have shown a link between substance abuse and chronic stress. Those studies have also demonstrated that prolonged stress alters your brain, affecting the parts that deal with impulse control and higher-level thinking.


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Many of today’s jobs come with high levels of stress. Employees with anxiety disorders are about twice as likely as other employees to abuse substances. Employees who have problems with substance abuse tend to cause more problems and risk in the workplace.

Some research shows that drinking or abusing drugs at work may be a response to physical and psychosocial factors in a work environment, says Michael R. Frone, a research associate professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo.

“Although external factors clearly influence employee drinking habits, a second perspective views the causes of employee alcohol use as arising, at least in part, from the work environment itself,” Frone writes.

That alienation-stress paradigm proposes that employee alcohol use could be a response to work demands, an employee’s level of boredom, having no part in decision making, and interpersonal conflict with coworkers and supervisors.

To combat stress-related substance abuse, you can try to reduce stress in healthy ways such as with exercise, healthful eating, and mindful meditation.

Another possibility is a career change. Over time, stress can damage your body and mind. When your job is so stressful it harms your health, it might be time to think about moving on.

If your substance abuse has reached the level of dependency, 12-step programs for alcohol and drug abuse are widely available.


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July 26, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA