The Effects of Substance Abuse on Employment

Posted on April 7th, 2013

In a tight economy, it is worth examining what makes a person more, or less, employable. The question of how alcohol and drug use impact a person’s job has been looked at from several  directions. But each study comes up with the same conclusion – that there is a definite link between a person’s use of alcohol or drugs and their likelihood of being gainfully employed. Those who abuse drugs or alcohol, or use them even casually, tend to be less employed compared to those who do not use/abuse those substances.

One study looked at drug and alcohol use vs. employment on a statewide scale. That study found that states with high rates of unemployment often also have higher instances of drug use. Rhode Island, for example, has the highest number of unemployed residents in the U.S. and also boasts the highest rate of drug use. The same study found that states with low per-capita output tend to have greater rates of marijuana and cocaine use.

Another study that took a more individual approach to data-gathering looked at 18- to 29-year-old men and plotted them according to marital status, age and employment status to see how those factors related to alcohol use. This study found that the men most likely to engage in alcohol use were single and employed. A separate investigation found that retired men drank less compared to younger, employed men.

Overall, however, drinking and using drugs tended to have a negative correlation to job opportunities. In most cases, drug users do not find a place in the white collar world. Drug users, if they were employed, tended to be in the blue collar, part-time labor force.

Being unemployed  increases the risk that a person will abuse drugs or alcohol. A study of data collected in 2009 showed that 17 percent of the unemployed were using drugs. Other research found that unemployed people who were depressed drank more than their employed counterparts. As people found work, their drinking tended to taper off. This led study authors to conclude that alcohol use deepens the depression for the unemployed, creating a vicious cycle of drinking, deepening depression and continuing unemployment.

Taken as a whole, these studies show that using alcohol and/or drugs reduces a person’s marketability in the workforce. Employers tend to prefer teetotalers over even those who drink only socially. Productivity is higher where alcohol and drug use are lower and, conversely, high unemployment rates tend to produce higher rates of substance abuse.

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