When thinking about professions that have high rates of substance abuse, those that come to mind first are probably fields like military service and first responders, who are exposed to trauma and distress in their line of work. What may not receive as much attention is the substance abuse problem that exists in the restaurant and hospitality field, placing workers in this industry at increased risk of addiction and its consequences.

The Prevalence of Substance Abuse and Addiction Among Restaurant and Hospitality Workers

The rates of drug and alcohol in the restaurant and hospitality industry are rather alarming. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 11.8 percent of workers in this field report heavy alcohol use within a given month, and 19.1 percent use illegal drugs within any month. In a given year, 16.9 percent of those in the foodservice and hospitality field will experience a substance use disorder, which is the clinical term for an addiction.

In the general population aged 18-25, around 8.4 percent are heavy alcohol users within a given month, whereas 6 percent of those aged 26 and above use alcohol heavily. Furthermore, 8.4 percent of the general population experiences a substance use disorder in a given year. Based upon these data, it is clear that those working in the foodservice and hospitality industry are at increased risk of addiction compared to others in the general population.

Why are addiction rates so high in food service and hospitality?

The staggering rates of substance abuse in the foodservice and hospitality industry have prompted researchers to take a look at the reasons behind drug and alcohol use in this industry. According to a recent study, which confirmed that foodservice employees are more likely than those in other industries to use illegal drugs, age may be a contributing factor to drug and alcohol use. The majority of employees in the industry are under the age of 34, making them more likely to engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse.

A second study found that foodservice employees tend to experience high levels of dissatisfaction with their jobs, and they are likely to engage in heavy drinking as a way to cope with these feelings and find an escape from work. Finally, a third study involved interviews with individuals in the food service industry, and revealed the following information:

  • Substance abuse may help food service employees to cope with customers, such as by increasing confidence or helping them to be more patient with those who are demanding.
  • Drug use is common in the industry, and the workplace may even become a hub for drug sales.
  • Drugs can help workers cope with job stress, like productivity demands from management, long and erratic work hours, and the intensity of the job.
  • Employees in foodservice and hospitality may get together to unwind after a night of work, which usually involves drug and alcohol use.

Given what is known from the research, substance abuse runs rampant in the foodservice and hospitality industry. It seems that the culture in these workplaces supports the use of drugs and alcohol, as workers commonly report getting together with coworkers to party, exchanging drugs at work, and using substances to cope with job dissatisfaction or the stress of the work.

Treatment for Foodservice and Hospitality Workers

Drug and alcohol use is common in the foodservice and hospitality field, but unfortunately, workers in the industry may be in denial of the severity of the problem. When coworkers are also abusing substances, the behavior may seem normal and acceptable. It can also be difficult to stay sober, especially when many workplaces in the industry have alcohol on site. It is also challenging to enter recovery and abstain from drug use when coworkers are exchanging drugs at work.

Foodservice workers who find that they are unable to stop using drugs, despite serious consequences, are in need of treatment. An addiction treatment program can help them to develop healthier strategies for coping with stress and manage triggers for drug and alcohol use. At iRecoveryUSA, we are happy to work with foodservice and hospitality workers. With our telehealth portal, employees in this industry can receive comprehensive addiction treatment from the comfort of home. Contact us today to learn more.