Posted on July 4, 2013 in alcohol and drug addiction, Society

On the Job Stress May Lead to Substance Abuse

There are many factors which contribute to a person’s risk for addiction and substance abuse. Genetics may be one risk. A family history of substance abuse does not determine that a person will wind up in some form of addiction, but studies reveal that heredity can be a contributing factor. Another significant risk factor is environment. While environment can sometimes refer to the influence of others, research also shows that high-stress work environments can likewise play a role.

Some jobs are by their very nature environments of stress and anxiety. Soldiers, first responders, emergency room staff, and even deep sea fishermen are just a few who face high stress as part and parcel of the job description. Other jobs are made stressful by high pressure employers or unreasonable work expectations. Whatever the exact cause, when stress becomes a daily regimen, the likelihood that workers will look for an escape valve goes up exponentially. Mental health research shows a strong correlation between anxiety and substance abuse. Workers with an anxiety disorder are two times more likely than non-anxious workers to abuse substances.

When the work-related stress follows a person home, the temptation is great to use alcohol or drugs in order to “get away” or quiet the anxiety. Long-term stress is also linked to depression. People who feel they are under constant pressure sometimes stop feeling happy not only at work but everywhere. Substance abuse can be a way that the person reaches out in search of elusive feelings of happiness. People wrongly assume that the substance which makes them feel good temporarily will help them to stave off depression, when actually substance abuse deepens depression.

Signs that stress and anxiety are too present in a person’s life include:

1. Exaggerated reactions to people and situations
2. Irrational concerns
3. Constant tiredness
4. Quickened heart beat
5. Feeling jittery
6. Hot flashes.

The answer to high stress work environments is not to use substances to mask the situation. The appropriate response is to learn healthy ways of managing stress. Rather than a glass of wine each night after work, take a walk. Sit down with your daily schedule and take control rather than giving in to a sense of being driven by events and outside forces. These are just a couple of stress coping skills.

When a person is abusing substances in order to handle stress, they will probably benefit from sitting down with a behavioral health professional that can help them to recognize maladaptive responses as well as teach them new strategies for managing daily stress. Nearly 20 million Americans are dealing with anxiety and stress, lots of it related to work. Since there is no way to live a stress-free life, learning to cope with stress in a healthy way is a must for us all.

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