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Connections Between Job Burnout and Substance Abuse

Connections Between Job Burnout and Substance Abuse

Work stress is common in America, especially these days, but things get even worse when job burnout leads to a substance abuse problem. Many of us have come home after a long day of work, poured a stiff drink, and settled back on the couch. Others will meet up with friends at a bar to have drinks and let off some steam. Anyone dealing with a stressful, dangerous, or unfulfilling job may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. However, would you know when you have a substance abuse problem?

Let’s explore job burnout and substance abuse further. We’ll look at why we turn to substances, when to know if you have a problem, and how an addiction treatment program can help.

Job Burnout and Substance Abuse Are Common

Stressful jobs come in many forms. Maybe you have to deal with a demanding boss, adhere to strict deadlines, or operate under intense pressure. Perhaps, if you are a police officer, EMT, or another type of first responder, your job performance could make the difference between life and death. Or maybe you hate your job and resent having to spend hours of your day, every single day, performing tasks that don’t emotionally fulfill you. All of these scenarios are recipes for job burnout.

When you lack coping mechanisms and other healthy distractions, it’s hard to resist alcohol or drugs. These substances numb discomfort, promote relaxation, and get you out of the work mindset. However, if you find yourself partaking in these activities more than once a week or so, you could be heading down the path toward substance abuse. If so, you’re not alone. Job burnout and substance abuse are so inextricably linked that almost a quarter of Americans reported drinking during the workweek in 2016.1 And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic turned everything upside-down for nearly the whole world.

Consequences of Substance Abuse

Due to stress, dissatisfaction with work, and health problems from both stress and substance abuse, missing work becomes frequent. For many people, those absences can cause even more trouble in the form of disciplinary action, missed deadlines, or tasks piling up. Needless to say, this only worsens the stress and contributes to the negative cycle.

Eventually, coping with substances can get dangerous. Employees who abuse alcohol get injured and miss work 2.7 times as frequently as non-drinkers. And it isn’t just the employees who drink who can get hurt. That same 2016 report found that 20% of workers have put their safety at risk by being under the influence of alcohol.1

COVID-19 Has Made Things Worse (Of Course)

Obviously, 2020 and 2021 were challenging years for most of the country. Current job burnout reports show historic levels of stress-inducing factors for people to contend with. Some of the most common stress factors include:2

  • Worrying about getting exposed to illness at work
  • Juggling family and work-life when daycares and schools are closed
  • Concern over job security
  • Working from home without a clear line of separation between work hours and off-hours
  • Fewer opportunities to see friends and family and engage in healthy activities to reduce stress
  • Caring for sick family members while still having to work full-time
  • Picking up extra hours if a spouse or family member loses a job

Alcohol isn’t the only substance of concern when it comes to coping with stress. Even as early as May 2020, the CDC had already noted a marked increase in drug overdose deaths.3 They tied this increase to the massive stress levels and isolation, combined with a lack of available help and resources during lockdowns.

Fortunately, helpful resources like recovery centers are available and ready to help anyone struggling with substance problems.

Substance Abuse Doesn’t Need to Be Severe to Get Help

If job stress has you turning to drugs or alcohol for relaxation and you’re beginning to worry about relying too much on these substances, consider reaching out to Spring Gardens Recovery. Depending on your needs and preferences, our outpatient program includes up to eight hours of program services per week, usually in the form of individual or group therapy and family support. You can continue to live at home, go to work, and fully live your life, but you’ll have access to encouragement and support when it counts. Contact our trained, compassionate team to get started.


[1] https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-09-26/understanding-the-link-between-stressful-occupations-and-addiction
[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/05/it-feels-like-everyone-is-burned-out-and-mindfulness-isnt-enough.html
[3] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p1218-overdose-deaths-covid-19.html


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