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Does Job Burnout Lead to Substance Misuse?

Does Job Burnout Lead to Substance Misuse?

Job burnout.  It’s something every working person has experienced at some point.  At the end of a long, stressful day, many people go to bed exhausted and frustrated.  They dream of winning the lottery or inheriting a fortune from a distant relative.  Instead, they get up in the morning and get ready to face another day at work.  

Emotional and physical exhaustion from job burnout can lead a person to substance abuse.

When someone struggles with a tedious job they may seek comfort at the end of the workday.  Some will turn to alcohol.  Others turn to drugs.  Before long, substance misuse becomes more than a casual drink or two.  

Signs or Symptoms of Job Burnout

Across the US, millions of people deal with work conditions that are less than ideal.  Many don’t realize they’re suffering from job burnout.  They believe it’s a normal part of daily life to feel tired and worn down.  So, when a person has job burnout, what does it mean?  

The WHO definition of burnout is “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”   Burnout is also referred to as chronic stress syndrome.  

Would you know if you have job burnout?  If not, here are 3 symptoms that you can look for:

  1. Do you feel that all of your energy is depleted, leaving you exhausted?
  2. Do you have negative feelings toward your career and feel like a robot at work?
  3. Have you lost interest in being as productive as possible?

Other symptoms can include angry outbursts, panic attacks, guilt, anger, and sadness.

If you’re dealing with the signs of burnout, you’re not alone.  But, there are healthy ways to cope with the symptoms without turning to substance misuse. 

Untreated burnout can lead to depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.  Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol make emotional issues worse.  

The Link Between Job Stress and Substance Misuse

Work-related stress affects each person differently.  Of course, stress at work falls under many categories.  Sometimes stress is part of being an overachiever.  Stress can come from fear of losing the job, keeping the person on edge. They can’t focus on their tasks because they’re afraid of doing something wrong.  

The link between job stress and substance misuse can include the following factors:

  • Peer pressure.  A co-worker wants to grab a drink after work.  At the end of a tiring shift, you’re tempted to say yes.  You may also see it as a way to improve the working relationship with the individual.
  • Poor coping skills.  A person who lacks effective coping skills is more likely to use drugs or alcohol to deal with job stress.
  • Some careers or jobs are more stressful than others. For instance, jobs such as first responders, food service, management, real estate, and construction are more susceptible to substance misuse.

Low salaries are another reason for job burnout.  Low motivation is often a side effect of being underpaid.  These individuals worry constantly about paying bills, buying necessities, and trying to get ahead.  They may become depressed and angry.  When this happens, substance misuse will likely be their first step toward a solution.

Job burnout will lead to other problems besides substance misuse. For instance, substance use can cause a person to miss work a lot, especially on Monday or Friday.  This chronic absenteeism may result in job loss.  With this situation, comes more depression, stress, and worry.  The combination will likely lead to increased drug or alcohol use.

Surprising Workplace Statistics 

The National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports some shocking workplace statistics.  Here are a few of their findings:

  • About 79% of 14.8 million people who use illegal drugs are employed only part-time.
  • More than 20% of employees and managers felt their safety was at risk due to a co-worker’s alcohol consumption.
  • Approximately 24% of employees admitted to drinking alcohol during the workday.
  • Compared to non-drinkers, employees who use alcohol are 2.7 times more likely to miss work or suffer work-related injuries.

Stress, exhaustion, and workplace burnout can happen to anyone.  But, the way a person handles the issues can make all the difference.  Using drugs or alcohol as a remedy establishes a pathway to more problems.

Help for Substance Misuse at Cycles of Change Recovery

If you are struggling with substance misuse due to job burnout or other causes, contact us today.  Untreated addictions are progressive and can become terminal.  So, take steps now to avoid the dire consequences.  

At Cycles of Change Recovery, our comforting and secure environment allows you to leave stress behind and focus on healing.  Our compassionate, skilled staff will ensure that you are treated with respect throughout your time in our program.  

Our comprehensive treatment options can be customized to suit your needs and preferences. We believe anyone can overcome addiction with the right help.  Contact our facility in beautiful Palmdale, CA to learn more about our unique and effective treatment approach.


  • who.int/news  – Burn-out an “Occupational Phenomenon.”
  • ncadd.org/ – Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace

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