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Addiction in the Restaurant Industry – Statistics & Treatment

2 min read · 2 sections

The American restaurant industry is one of the largest private‐sector employers. There are currently over 14 million workers in the restaurant industry, representing 10% of the entire U.S. workforce.1 Due to the unique nature of this fast-paced industry, many workers are prone to heavy workloads, long work days, few meal breaks, and late-night shifts. These are all things that contribute to job-related stress in restaurants, which can lead to using alcohol or drugs to cope with the demands of the service industry.

Substance Abuse Within the Restaurant Industry

In a study looking at substance use within various industries, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found the restaurant industry to be the most at risk for illicit drug use and substance use disorders and the third most at risk for heavy alcohol use.2 Addiction rates in restaurant workers include:

  • 11.8% of food services workers reported binge drinking during the last month
  • 19.1% of food services workers report using illicit drugs during the last month
  • 17% of food services workers have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder

High levels of employee drug use and alcohol consumption in the restaurant industry can be attributed to several factors, including:3-4

  • High-stress environment.
  • A relatively young labor pool.
  • Low wages.
  • Irregular work schedules including late‐night shifts.
  • Low management surveillance.
  • Work culture norms (end‐of‐shift drinks, going out after work).
  • Alcohol availability in the workplace.
  • Peer pressure from coworkers.

Substance abuse is not confined to any specific type of restaurant, and can be seen in workers of fast food, casual, and fine dining restaurants.  A recent study examined substance use in Michelin-starred kitchen staff throughout Britain and Ireland, finding that alcohol and drugs are commonly used as a means of self-medication and as a coping strategy for most chefs regardless of their ranking. While alcohol is primarily used to unwind after a grueling work day and to cope with harsh working environments, drugs and other substances are mainly used to maintain or improve performance.5

Roadblocks for Service Workers Getting Treatment for Addiction

There is clear data showing that substance abuse is a major issue among restaurant workers. Unfortunately, there are several circumstances impeding these workers from receiving the necessary treatment to address their problem. One such thing is the lack of health insurance provided to restaurant workers, with estimates showing only 14% of workers receive any form of benefits from their employer.6

Additional factors include:

  • A recent study incorporating interviews with restaurant employees found that substance abuse prevention measures were either non-existent or never seen enforced at their places of employment.7
  • It is estimated that less than ¼ of companies in the food service industry offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), the workplace-based program designed to address substance abuse among employees.8

Addiction Treatment Options for Restaurant Workers

If you work in the restaurant industry and are struggling with addiction, it is important to know that help is out there and recovery is possible. At American Addiction Centers, we’ve helped countless people find hope and healing at our network of recovery centers located nationwide.

Give us a call at to learn more about your treatment options and to speak with our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators. They can go over payment options, verify insurance coverage, and help you start the admissions process, too. Recovery is possible, so don’t wait. Give us a call today.

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