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Hospitality Workers and Addiction – Statistics, Recovery & Treatment Options

2 min read · 3 sections
Evidence-Based Care
Expert Staff

The Hospitality Industry

A defining aspect of the hospitality industry is its focus on customer satisfaction. Yet while making sure that restaurant diners, bar patrons, and hotel guests are all having a great time, the workers taking care of them must endure tough conditions in a high-pressure work environment. Many workers may turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to cope with stress from their jobs. Drug and alcohol abuse among hospitality workers is an ongoing problem, but it’s one that can be fixed with proper treatment and understanding.

Substance Abuse Within the Hospitality Industry

Results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health paint a picture of how prevalent substance abuse is among workers in the hospitality industry. Based on their analysis of the survey results, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration reported that employees of restaurants and hotels (the two major branches of the hospitality industry) have the highest rates of substance abuse out of the entire American workforce. Specific findings pertaining to addiction rates in hospitality workers include:1

  • Nearly 1 in 5 employees reported the use of illicit drugs within the past month, the highest rate of any industry
  • 12% of employees engaged in heavy alcohol use during the past month
  • 17% of employees were diagnosed with a substance use disorder, the highest rate of any industry

The high prevalence of drug and alcohol use among workers in the hospitality industry can be attributed to several factors that include:2-3

  • Long work hours
  • High stress
  • Low pay
  • Lack of compliance with labor laws
  • Shift work
  • Social norms (drinks after work, etc.)
  • Relatively young workers
  • Alcohol availability within the workplace

It is also likely that stress related to constant interaction with customers causes some employees to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping. This idea is supported by research, as one recent study investigating substance use among hotel employees found that front-of-the-house employees were more prone to binge drinking than back-of-the house employees.4

A career in the hospitality industry may also be more conducive for workers battling substance abuse and addiction, as these jobs often involve working in the middle of the night. This can be attractive to drug users as it allows them to be under the influence of drugs while at work, long after upper management has left for the day. This can obviously lead to work performance problems, such as messing up orders or other tasks. There is also increased risk to guests, as they can be injured by the actions and negligence of an impaired employee.

Treatment Options

As with most illnesses, addiction does not only impact the individual, it affects friends and family members as well. If you work in the hospitality industry and are suffering from substance abuse, seek professional treatment immediately. Please take this important first step towards recovery for yourself, and your loved ones. There are a number of options for recovery and treatment, including out-patient therapy and long-term residential care with detox. Talk to an addiction specialist today to discuss treatment plans that match your specific needs and get yourself on the road to healthy and long-term sobriety.


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry.
  2. Zhu, J., Tews, M., Stafford, K., & George, R.T. (2011). Alcohol and illicit substance use in the food service industry: Assessing self‐selection and job‐related risk factors. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 35(1), 4563.
  3. Duke, M.R., Ames, G.M., Moore, R.S., & Cunradi, C.B. (2013). Divergent Drinking Patterns of Restaurant Workers: The Influence of Social Networks and Job Position. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 28(1), 30-45.
  4. Belhassen, Y. & Shani, A. (2012). Hotel workers’ substance use and abuse. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31(4), 1292-1302.
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