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Addiction in the Workplace

Posted on June 3, 2015

Addiction in the Workplace

This article examines the relationship between stress in high-pressure roles and addiction, and offer tips on supporting a colleague or employee with addiction with added insight from Dr Tim Cantopher.

Addiction does not just affect the person’s mental and physical health, it really can damage all aspects of life. As well as relationship problems, money troubles and emotional instability, the effects of addiction can lead to employees becoming less productive and taking extended time off work due to an inability to cope.

Stress in the Workplace

DrugScope and Alcohol Concern conducted a survey in 2010 examiningalcohol abuse in the workplace finding that a staggering 27% of employers say drug misuse is a problem at work. CIPD found that nearly a third of organisations have dismissed employees where alcohol addiction was the reason, or a significant factor. It is clear that addiction is a widespread problem, but why?

Anyone is susceptible to addiction, although “you can trace back the majority of addiction problems to overwhelming stress. Particularly at work – people’s addictions seem to start as an attempt to self-medicate their underlying stress problems” explains Dr Cantopher.

People find themselves in a high-pressure job where the demands are too high, which often leads to an addiction cycle, Dr Cantopher states: “People across many industries take stimulants in order to get themselves going. These people are getting themselves livened up and taking their uppers during the day an then of course they’re completely wired come the evening.

“Being unable to settle down, lead a normal family life or sleep, they then turn to alcohol as their downer. Of course alcohol then makes them more anxious the next day and the whole cycle repeats itself.”

Industries with Highest Addiction

This addiction cycle is often seen in high-pressure industries, as the connection to stress is prevalent. Dr Cantopher agrees, “Certainly from my experience, people in high stress occupation are the ones who tend to self-medicate and that’s the most common route into addiction”.

Due to the taboo that still surrounds addiction, the results of any survey attempting to find out the most addicted industries is likely to be inaccurate. Dr Cantopher expands on the likelihood of clouded reports: “people like doctors and financiers are less likely to present themselves for treatment under the NHS because they’re afraid of it getting out”.

Despite the stigma, employers and fellow employees can help people effected by stress, addiction, and other mental health conditions, simply by speaking out about it.

How to give your support

Every business should have in place a safe and confidential to support employees with any pressures, including addiction, they may be feeling inside or outside of work. High amounts of pressure can be alleviated by sharing tips on managing stressand work delegation, ridding employees of some of their burdens.

Should it become apparent to you that a colleague is showing signs of addiction do not be afraid to take action. You can help by approaching them about the issue, baring in mind to:

  • Bring up your concerns in person and in private
  • Speak in a friendly way, without judgment or accusation
  • Avoid mentions of feelings – stick to facts instead
  • Mention specific instances or events, rather than general, vague attitudes
  • Be solution-focused and positive in the way you address the next steps

With the right support and treatment, addiction needn’t be a mental health condition that costs a person’s livelihood, or a business’ success.

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