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Substance Abuse amongst Teachers

Posted on August 7, 2019

Substance Abuse amongst Teachers

It takes courage, passion, devotion, and dedication for someone to become a teacher. Reason being, teachers are prone to all types of abuses.

If they are not being underpaid, they are undervalued or underappreciated regardless of their work. Certainly, society is unforgiving to these industrious and highly skilled professionals.

To become a teacher one has to brace for hardships ahead or give up even before attaining that much-needed experience of teaching. Despite their skills and responsibility resting on their shoulders, teachers live under all manners of constraints.

Some of them live under unimaginable budget cut while others have to brace themselves for ever-shifting education policies, sceptical parents and school violence among others.

As a result, they end up looking for an escape route to their happiness, whether short or long-term.

The most popular direction they take is substance abuse. Perhaps they turn to this chemical abuse with a sheer hope of escaping the reality presented to them by the education system.

And this reality comes in the form of stress, tension, frustration from administrators and overstressed educators as well as constant pressure to perform better. Learn more about what leads to substance abuse among teachers in the following section.

Why Teachers May Abuse Substances

Several hypotheses explain why most teachers find themselves abusing chemical substances. The 2015 article published in Educational News, tries to give reasons why some teachers get addicted to alcohol and other harmful substances [1].

The first hypothesis in the article explains that this emerging trend among teachers is work-related stress. Most of the abusers resolve to chemical abuse as a way of reducing their stress. In reality, this is just a common reason given by those using drugs, especially alcohol.

Surprisingly, the problem is prevalent across all professionals with everyone blaming the rising cases of stress at work.

The article expounds further on the issue of female teachers getting into drug abuse but does not give reasons why their male colleagues may abuse substances.

According to the empirical data from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), male teachers are more likely to abuse illicit drugs or alcohol than females teachers [2].

But the consumption of drugs and alcohol to reduce stress is a common trend in all professions. So, it is easy to hypothesise that work-related stress reduction could be the first reason most educators start using and eventually abusing drugs or alcohol. But why is alcohol the most preferred form of substance abuse?

More often than not, alcohol has been abused because its a central nervous system depressant. In this regard, it is likely to reduce any issue related to perceived stress.

Although it offers a short-term “solution” to the users, alcohol can become addictive with continued use, leading to abuse and eventually becoming a long term problem.

The second hypothesis from the article points out clearly that some teachers may abuse substances as a way of enhancing their moods. While this may appear as something less detrimental, in the future it may turn out to be a life-threatening affair.

A 2014 article [3] published in the Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology gave an estimation to the prevalence of depression cases in different occupations.

The article estimated that there was an average of 10 % depression cases across all occupations, with a range of 8 to 16 % in every occupation. In the education sector alone, the prevalence of depression stood at 10%, and this was consistent in comparison to other occupations.

As a result, teachers as a professional group are perhaps not likely to become depressed from abusing alcohol than other people in other occupations.

But teaching, however, can get monotonous at other times and when coupled with work-related stress, it might lead to substance abuse among teachers.

In this case, alcohol may become the main substance of abuse given that it is socially acceptable.

In such a situation, teachers will be less likely to turn to illicit drugs because of their perceived status. Instead, they may keep on abusing alcohol in an attempt to maintain that the use of alcohol is primarily for social purposes.

For those teachers on alcohol abuse, this type of perception may not look questionable to their peers but in the long run, they may find themselves battling with depression.

The last hypothesis given by the article explains that teachers might resolve to drug or alcohol abuse as a way of dealing with sleep issues. Of course, there is no substantial evidence or data regarding sleep disorder prevalence among teachers.

It is expected that these groups of professionals are not to be affected by sleep disorders compared to other people in the general population.

Problems with insomnia may be related to the factors mentioned above, such as depression and stress.

A number of teachers could turn to excessively taking alcohol to initiate sleep. On the contrary, alcohol is known to interfere with sleep due to its tendency to disrupt the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.

In the long run, the abuse of alcohol in the pretext of inducing sleep could escalate the problem even further.

Are Teachers Victims of the “Halo Effect”?

Often times educators are placed on a pedestal. This means they always become victims of what is commonly referred to as the “halo effect.

This is a phenomenon that comes into perspective when a group of people looks upon certain individuals who are thought to have some desirable qualities.

Thus they end up making a broad generalisation about an individual perceived to be positive in every aspect of life. So, teachers are placed in this category of people as well.

In most cases, educators are viewed and held in high esteem as social, selfless and intelligent people.

For that reason, teachers are regarded as perfect and faultless people in almost every sphere of influence. As time goes by, the pressure to hold their good name (as expected by the society) mounts on them, leaving them drained and frustrated whenever they go wrong.

This situation gets even worse among the teachers who have turned to alcohol or drug abuse to cope with stress or depression. It is because they cannot come out openly and seek help from the general public.

For them, their outward picture matters the most because they are seen as perfect people and role models in a given society.

In other words, they choose to suffer in silence rather than reaching out to the masses for assistance because of the perceived expectations of those around them.

The good news is that teachers have formed unions that protect their privacy as well as personal rights.

For instance, any teacher who has recently been diagnosed with a substance use disorder like alcohol use disorder is more likely to get protection from the union.

The protection from the union is vital because it gives them job security and much-needed privacy.

However, if they are found to have been involved in a major ethical violation, some extreme behaviour or have significant legal issues resulting from their alcohol or drug abuse, then the union will not protect them.

Anyway, such incidents are treated as isolated cases and they rarely happen that much.

Is it Possible for Affected Teachers to Get Help?

In every negative situation, help must come. So, those teachers affected with drug or alcohol abuse need some assistance to enable them to lead a more meaningful life.

Most importantly, the affected teachers can come out clean and take responsibility for their substance abuse problem.

Seeking relevant treatment, admitting that they need help and committing themselves to change their behaviour can help the most affected educators deal with the stigma associated with alcohol abuse.

After all, people appreciate and accept those that are honest and committed to changing their lives for the better.

Generally, the following steps can help victims of substance abuse break the stigma and seek help:

Have full knowledge of the signs related to a substance use disorder.

Some of the common signs regarding substance abuse include dysfunction and distress in life, poor performance at work, tension, failure to fulfil important obligations, or physical dependence on alcohol or drugs.

All these signs should be treated as red-flag and a big problem with the use of drugs.

Take immediate action. Once the signs of someone abusing drugs become clear, the next thing is to take action. This means that the victim of drug abuse needs to get treatment after doing a substance use disorder intervention [4].

The importance of carrying this intervention is to let the person know the negative side of substance abuse, its effect on others and the need for treatment.

Enrollment in the treatment-related activities can last for about 5 to 7 years after stopping the use of drugs. Abstinence for substance abuse for this while can help an individual recover fully.

In the case of the affected teachers, they will be required to take leave for their treatment and rehabilitation

Finally, the affected individuals or teachers will require everyone’s support while recovering from drug or alcohol abuse.

This is the moment teachers need full support from their peers, family members, friends, and union members to have a successful recovery from substance abuse.






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