Medically Reviewed

Drug Use and Addiction Among High Earning Professionals

1 min read · 3 sections

More Money, More Problems?

High earning professionals, such as executives and senior managers, usually have very stressful, anxiety-riddled, and sleep-deprived careers. These high earners become exhausted from brutal schedules and the intense demands placed on them. The constant stress of having to deal with things like unrelenting competition, company downsizing, slashed budgets, and pressure to show profitability can take its toll on these individuals.

There have been numerous studies describing stress as a major risk factor for substance abuse and addiction.1 And like any other individual in the general workforce, high earning professionals can turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of coping with the pressures and stress related to their job. And at the end of the day, addiction can affect anyone, regardless of socioeconomic standing.

Substance Abuse Among High Earning Professionals

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that high-earning professionals employed in the management sector (including business executives and other managers) have higher rates of substance abuse compared to the rest of the general workforce. Of all the industries examined in this study, management is the third most at risk for illicit drug use. Addiction rates for individuals employed in management include:2

  • 12.1% reported illicit drug use during the past month
  • 11.4% were diagnosed with a substance use disorder
  • 9.9% reported heavy drinking during the past month

Once an executive or other high earning professional develops an addiction, there are several factors that prevent them from seeking substance abuse treatment. Some of these reasons include:3

  • Denial of their addiction
  • Belief that as a strong leader they are always in control
  • Belief that they are still high-functioning (business is still being successfully run)
  • Position of power (associates do not confront them out of fear of losing their job, assistants and other executives cover up their substance use)
  • Personal wealth (allows them to purchase excessive amounts of drugs over a long period of time)
  • Social norms (such as encouraging executives to drink with clients and other partners during meetings or dinners)

Treatment Options

Many wealthy professionals continue to be successful in their jobs because of the work support they receive from assistants. Consequently, this may lead these individuals to avoid treatment for as long as possible. They may simply be in denial of any substance abuse problem or they may fear being identified as an addict. Although some high earners eventually do seek help on their own, others may require an intervention to help them see their need for treatment.

If you are an executive, senior manager, or any other individual with a high degree of professional responsibility that is battling addiction, please know that there is help available. Please contact an addiction specialist to discuss your personalized approach to treatment, including the option to undergo treatment in a specialized executive rehab program.

In addition to offering medical detox, individual and group therapy, and maintenance medication treatment, these programs also provide a high degree of privacy with amenities that can include workspaces, internet and computer access, phone privileges, private conference rooms, catered meals, exercise facilities, outdoor recreational areas, and travel support.


  1. Sinha, R. (2009). Chronic stress, drug use, and vulnerability to addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1141(1), 105-30.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry.
  3. O’Connell, D., Carruth, B., & Bevvino, D. (2012). Managing Your Recovery from Addiction: A Guide for Executives, Senior Managers, and Other Professionals. New York: The Haworth Press.
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