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Substance Use Disorder in the Food Service Industry

The food service industry in California employs more than 1.4 million people, generating over $200 billion in economic activity annually. Many people make hospitality their career, which can be lucrative and fulfilling. However, it is also an industry with high rates of addiction. Workers in the food industry have the highest rate of substance use disorder among all industries.

Why Is Substance Use So Pervasive in the Food Service Industry?

People use drugs for many reasons, but when asked directly, they often say they use them to relax and unwind. Other reasons also may be at play, such as coping with mental health issues or trauma. Due to limited healthcare access, some people also use substances to deal with chronic pain issues.

One of the primary reasons for the high rates of substance use disorder in the food industry is the long working hours and the high-stress environment. Many workers in the food industry work long hours, including nights and weekends, which can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. This exhaustion and the high-stress environment of working in a busy kitchen or restaurant can make workers more vulnerable to substance use disorders.

Substances are often more freely available in the restaurant and food industry. Many drugs, including alcohol, marijuana, and prescription opioids, are readily shared by coworkers or even customers. In some cases, workers may even be encouraged to use drugs to cope with the stress and pressure of the job.

Substance use disorder is a pervasive problem that affects many industries, including the food industry in California. Substance use disorder, also known as addiction, is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite negative consequences. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or profession.

How Substance Misuse Affects Food Workers On-the-Job

The consequences of substance use disorder in the food industry can be severe. Workers struggling with addiction may have difficulty performing their jobs, leading to mistakes and accidents. They may also be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, which can lead to legal trouble. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite the harmful consequences. Here are some symptoms of substance use disorder that may be observed in people who work in restaurants:

  1. Changes in Behavior: One of the most common symptoms of substance use disorder is changes in behavior. This may include changes in mood, irritability, anxiety, depression, and agitation. Restaurant workers may also become more secretive, avoid social interactions, or become less reliable.
  2. Physical Symptoms: Substance use disorder can cause various physical symptoms, including changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and weight loss or gain. Restaurant workers with substance use disorder may arrive to work unkempt, smell alcohol or experience tremors, sweating, dilated pupils, and bloodshot eyes.
  3. Poor Work Performance: Substance use disorder can impact an individual's ability to perform their job effectively. Restaurant workers with addiction may miss work, arrive late, or leave early. They may also make more mistakes or have a slower work pace if they are under the influence. Additionally, they may have conflicts with coworkers, managers, or customers.
  4. Financial Problems: Substance use disorder can lead to financial problems, including spending money on drugs or alcohol and missing bill payments. Restaurant workers with addiction may even steal from their employers or coworkers to support their drug use.
  5. Legal Issues: Substance use disorder can also lead to legal problems, including arrests for drug possession, driving under the influence, or other criminal offenses. Restaurant workers may also lose their driver's licenses, making it difficult to get to work.
  6. Intoxication: A worker with substance use issues may come to work intoxicated or use drugs or alcohol on the job. They may take frequent work breaks.

Getting Sober if You Work in the Restaurant Industry

Many people who have been sober for significant amounts of time work within the restaurant industry, although they tend to stay away from bars and nightclub scenes. San Diego especially has a robust recovery community, and people work in all kinds of jobs and industries when they get sober. If you are getting sober for the first time, you may want to seek guidance from your peers in your next job endeavor. Staying sober is always the top priority.

Some people in 12-step groups even network for jobs through their support system. Itโ€™s a great idea to learn a new job alongside somebody who has been in recovery a while.

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San Diego has so much to offer people new to recovery! Weโ€™re here to help you grow at a sober home every step of the way. Learn more about our homes, what our programs offer, and how you can start sober living by giving us a call.




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Mark Gladden
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Mark Gladden is the founder of By The Sea Recovery, a sober living facility located in beautiful San Diego, California. After struggling with addiction, Mark finally found recovery and a new purpose in life, to help others who are battling the same battle he faced.
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