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Substance Use in the Restaurant Industry: What You Should Know

substance-use-restaurant-industryAccording to a 2015 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) survey, 16.9% of workers in the hospitality and food industry have a substance use disorder. The SAMHSA survey also found that workers in the food service industry have the highest rates of monthly illicit drug use, with 19.1% of full-time workers using illicit drugs on a monthly basis.

These numbers are concerning, mainly because the restaurant sector is the second-largest private-sector employer in the United States, and restaurant jobs are expected to outpace manufacturing jobs.

Of course, there are plenty of people who work in the hospitality and food industry who don’t abuse drugs or alcohol, but this population is significantly more likely to develop substance use problems. Why? A study published in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health identifies a few key factors:

Substance Use Is Normalized

Drinking is part of industry culture. Alcohol is widely available in these environments. Research also suggests that people at-risk for alcohol dependency may self-select into the restaurant industry. Additionally, young adults make up a large percentage of restaurant workers, and alcohol use among that population tends to be higher in general. Even workers who are employed in restaurants where alcohol isn’t served, like fast food restaurants, report high rates of alcohol use.

It’s a High-Stress Environment

Any employee who works in a high-stress, high-performance environment, whether it’s a restaurant or not, is more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Fast service, zero tolerance for mistakes and constant face-to-face interaction with customers drive up stress.

Hours Are Irregular

When most 9-to-5 workers’ days are winding down, hospitality and restaurant workers are just getting started. Coworkers go out after their shifts end, which often involves alcohol and/or drug use, especially if the employees are younger.

Pay Is Low

Low wages and long, strenuous work hours go hand-in-hand with the food and hospitality industry. This creates a lot of stress and anxiety for workers, both on and off the clock. For some, drug and alcohol use offers a way to cope.

Alcohol Is Readily Available

The restaurant industry fosters addiction. Hours are long, breaks are few and far between, and alcohol is available. For many restaurant workers, especially bartenders, being surrounded by alcohol can be tempting, and it can be a particularly challenging line of work for someone who has dealt with substance use problems or is in recovery.

How Does Substance Abuse Impact the Workplace?

Substance abuse in the workplace is replete with consequences, whether that workplace is in the food and hospitality industry or not. Although the consequences of substance abuse in the workplace aren’t always clearly defined, it can ultimately affect a business’ bottom line and result in:

  • Loss of productivity.
  • Lower quality of work.
  • Increased employee turnover.
  • Increased absenteeism.
  • Low morale.
  • Work-related injuries and deaths.
  • Careless behavior that negatively impacts the business.
  • The illegal sale of substances between coworkers.

Only 23% of companies in the food service sector offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that connect employees with the resources to recover from substance abuse. To put that number into perspective, more than 97% of large companies and between 75-80% of medium and small companies offer EAPs. In an industry where substance use is the norm, this is a population who needs these life-changing services the most, but largely cannot access them.

However, affordable and effective resources are available. Spearhead Lodge offers the treatment you need to recover from addiction and create the life you want, and we’re in-network with most major insurance providers. Verify your insurance and learn more about our recovery services by contacting us at 1-888-483-0528.