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White-Collar Substance Abuse: Your Basic Guide

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Priscilla Henson, MD
Dr. Priscilla Henson is a Resident Physician specializing in Emergency Medicine at a community hospital in central California. She also serves as a member of the Pain Management Quality Improvement Committee through the same hospital. Part of the committee’s mandate is to work toward non-narcotic pain management alternatives.
White-Collar Substance Abuse: Your Basic GuideLearning about addiction and substance abuse for anyone can be difficult and awkward at times. But the working class deals with a few specific issues which can have serious impacts on the company they work for.

It’s important for everyone to understand white-collar drug addiction and substance abuse so you know how to help someone who is struggling, whether it’s an employee or yourself.

Main White-Collar Substance Abuse Issues

The middle to upper working class deal with a great amount of stress, regardless of their industry. While many are able to cope and find ways to relieve the pressure on their own, others have taken another path. The most common white-collar substance abuse problems revolve around alcohol, pills, and illicit drugs.

Alcohol

While statistics related to alcohol abuse vary among the different industries, it tends to be the most common issue amongst working professionals. As an example, more than 1 in 5 legal professionals such as lawyers and judges have been reported to have a drinking problem. Along those same lines, 9% of management professionals, 9% of real estate agents, and 4% in healthcare, all have issues with alcohol as well.

Prescription Drugs

Opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin, Fentanyl, Xanax and sleeping pills like Ambien have also made their mark on white-collar professionals. Becoming more easily accessible each and every year, workers resort to these pills for stress relief, relaxation, or to get some sleep at night.

Illicit Drugs

Though less common than alcohol abuse and prescription drug use, illegal substances like heroin and cocaine have majorly affected this class of employee over recent years. The CDC has reported that among individuals making more than $50,000 a year substance abuse of illicit drugs has risen by around 60%1 over the past couple of decades.

Impact of White-Collar Drug Addiction on Companies

With approximately 70% of professional businesses having reported employee issues with prescription drugs2 or alcohol abuse, almost three out of every four companies are seeing consequences that stem from these problems.

  • Decreased productivity: Addiction often causes a symptom called “presenteeism” where the person is physically at work, but cognitively unable function in a capacity needed to complete their job
  • Poor company culture: Whether depression is caused by the job or by substance abuse, these factors negatively affect the atmosphere surrounding the business.
  • Employee theft: Many white-collar drug addiction problems lead to large sums of money being spent on their substances, which eventually leads the individual to look for items they can sell to purchase more.
  • Consistent disciplinary actions: White-collar substance abuse can lead to bad attitudes, violence in the workplace, and high turnover.

Treating Substance Abuse in Working Professionals

The negative stigma of addiction often prevents many people to get help when they need it most. The fear of losing their job or dampening their reputation pulls them away from any desire to find treatment options. And others may not even be convinced they have a problem.

But employees assistance programs and professional treatment centers for white-collar substance abuse are a great place to start when someone is ready to start taking steps in the right direction.

Sources:

  1. CDC Vital Signs. July 7, 2015. Today’s Heroin Epidemic.
  2. Hersman, Deborah A.P. 2017. How the Prescription Drug Crisis is Impacting American Employers.
Last Updated on February 19, 2020
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american addiction centers photo
Priscilla Henson, MD
Dr. Priscilla Henson is a Resident Physician specializing in Emergency Medicine at a community hospital in central California. She also serves as a member of the Pain Management Quality Improvement Committee through the same hospital. Part of the committee’s mandate is to work toward non-narcotic pain management alternatives.
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