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The Truth About Substance Abuse in the Restaurant Industry

A group of chefs works quickly in a restaurant to prepare entrees.
The stress of working in the restaurant industry often leads to substance abuse.

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Your boss is screaming at you. You have five projects due right now. It’s insanely hot in your office. You’re working 60-plus hours a week. And it’s pretty much an open secret that many of your co-workers are on something.

That’s kind of what it feels like when you work in a restaurant.

It’s no surprise then that drug use is higher in the restaurant industry than in any other. In fact, 19 percent of all workers in the food service industry use an illicit substance on a regular basis, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Restaurant Industry and Drug Abuse

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain became famous after he published his first book, “Kitchen Confidential” in which he wrote about his years spent working in restaurants as a heroin addict. He described a culture where it’s almost normal to use drugs or get drunk after work.

Chef Gordon Ramsey actually created a documentary called “Gordon and Cocaine” after a chef (one of his best friends) died from a cocaine overdose. In the documentary, he tested toilets at his restaurants throughout the world and found evidence of cocaine in 30 out of 31 of them.

Back-breaking work, shifts that can last up to 18 hours and extremely stressful work conditions are to blame.

The Restaurant Industry and Alcoholism

Working at a restaurant often means late nights. But when you get off work, you’re not exactly feeling sleepy. Yes, you’re physically worn out, but your mind is racing and your adrenaline is still flowing.

There’s just no way you can go home and go right to sleep. What’s more, you feel like you’ve earned a little fun.

Restaurant employees have a long tradition of going out for a few drinks after work together. About 12 percent of people employed in the food service industry report heavy alcohol use, according to SAMHSA. (The mining industry has the highest percentage of heavy drinkers, 17.5 percent.)

Facing Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol

When everyone around you is using, it can be easy to slide into addiction without even realizing it.

How can you know if you are addicted? There are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle clues, but at the end of the day it really comes down to one question: Can I control how much I drink or how often I use?

If you’re drinking every day, for example, try to cut back slowly. The first week, drink only six days. The next week drink only five days. Continue until you reach what you consider to be a safe and reasonable amount.

If you try to do that and repeatedly fail, it’ doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It just means that addiction is a disease that can be tough to battle on your own—and it’s probably time to get help.

Addiction Rehab in Denver

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes addiction isn’t just a physical problem. Our master’s level trained therapists get to the root cause of addiction and will help you develop a strategy to manage and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the treatment programs at The Raleigh House.

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