Slippery Career Ladder – How Work-Related Stress Causes Substance Abuse


The growing number of Americans are becoming both overworked and overwhelmed: works days blend with personal time, and some complain about the inability to control, or even plan their family time due to the constantly changing schedules. So, it is no surprise that such circumstances can lead to anxiety and high-stress levels. However, the hidden cost of career-related stress is more costly than most workers realize.

dark-depressed-face-262218In 2015 researchers from Harvard and Sanford Business Schools published a paper in which they took a look at common 10 job stressors: from lack of health insurance to job insecurity and long working hours. They then considered how the mental and psychical effects of these forms of stress related to mortality. The paper conceded that stress-caused problems stemming from job stress, like hypertension, depression, and cardiovascular disorder can lead to fatal conditions that wind up killing about 120,000 people each year  – making work-related stressors and the maladies they cause, more deadly than Alzheimer’s diabetes, or influenza.

Stress is a normal and healthy response to triggers in the environment, body, and mind. It only becomes a problem when individuals don’t know how to correctly manage it or when stress levels become too high.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, besides the chronic diseases mentioned above, stress also causes multiple side effects such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal upse
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Deterioration of interpersonal relationships

Link Between Stress and Addiction

angry-annoyed-cafe-52608Some individuals are more predisposed to having more stress in their lives than others. It is interesting to note that it is often those same groups of people who engage in substance abuse behaviors or end up addicted to drugs and alcohol. While the nature of their stress may not be the causative link between the two, there is enough evidence to conclude that stress is a common drug use trigger. In cases of mismanagement of stress, individuals may lash out when under the pressure of mounting stress that they don’t know how to dissipate.

High-stress career fields are also major contributors. For instance, a legal career is associated with high levels of stress. Likewise, substance abuse among attorneys is not uncommon. Similarly, alcohol is the primary drug of choice among lawyers. This is likely because alcohol is legal and consumption of it, even on a regular basis, has become socially acceptable in the United States. In 2016 a Journal of Addiction Medicine published a study, which reports 20.6 percent of attorneys analyzed fit the criteria for alcohol dependence or problematic drinking practices.

Stress is also thought to be a contributing factor to the high rate of depression among attorneys. According to CNN, lawyers are 3.6 more likely to suffer from depression than representatives of other professions.

One of the biggest precipitating factors of stress is cortisol. The body produces this hormone in the adrenal glands. When the body has an overproduction of cortisol, it becomes more sensitive to pain. In turn, some people may reach for illicit substance or alcohol to numb their discomfort. The excessive amount of cortisol causes insomnia, weight gain, anxiety, acne, thinning skin, and depression. All of these factors are common cause of substance abuse problems.

addiction-antibiotic-capsules-159211In many cases, though the history of stress during childhood is not a prerequisite for an inability to handle it as an adult. Some individuals may suffer from mental health disorders that make them more susceptible to feeling distressed, even with a low amount of stress that most people would find tolerable. However, the inverse of this situation can also true. sometimes, substance abuse is what causes stress. Most of the time, a lifestyle that involves drug or alcohol abuse also brings with its financial woes, arguments with family, the pressure to keep up at work, and additional issues. This can create a vicious cycle of stress and substance abuse.

How Stress Influences Substance Choice

Research has shown that substance choice is often impacted what the individual is coping with. For example, is a person is struggling with anxiety will more likely choose antidepressants that may calm the nerves, while those people who suffer from depression are more likely to prefer uppers such as cocaine and methamphetamine. People who are under large amounts of stress (such as work stress) on a regular basis often opt for substances that are easily obtained. Alcohol and marijuana are likely to be the top two choices.

While substances like these may serve as a temporary fix to relieve stress, they don’t solve problems. They don’t reduce the amount of stress in one’s life; they just make it easier to ignore the core problem – stress. As a result, a person abusing drugs still doesn’t know how to manage stress without the substance.

How to Manage Stress in a Healthier Manner

Minimizing stress levels is crucial to addressing an addiction. Minimizing or eliminating the triggers all together is a big part of the recovery process. When individuals leave treatment, they need to have a low-stress environment to return to. This presents a lot of difficulty for many clients whose family members, friends, and even spouses are also abusing alcohol or drugs. Living in sober facilities may be a good place for these people in life in between treatment and returning home while they find a firmer footing in recovery.

With an abundant number of drug treatment facilities, it can be overwhelming to choose the one that will be right for you. If you don’t know how to start your search, consider using Emerge And See – substance abuse and recovery helpline. Use this site as your trusted resource, providing the answers to your questions concerning the many aspects of chemical dependency. Emerge And See will help inform and guide you through the process of searching for the type of treatment and recovery needed, at a moment’s notice.



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