Substance Abuse & Unemployment: Is There a Connection?

calendarApril 23, 2022

Although the unemployment rate has been cut in half since the peak of the pandemic, millions of people are still unemployed or underemployed. Also, keep in mind that unemployment isn’t just caused by layoffs and cost-cutting. Many people have been forced to leave the workforce to care for children and loved ones.

Given the unique impact of COVID-19 on people’s everyday lifestyles, there has been an increased focus on the high unemployment rate and its fallout, including whether there could be a connection between unemployment and addiction. People have not only been forced to shelter in place and avoid close contact with loved ones but also have felt apprehensive about seeking medical treatment for a wide range of conditions, including addiction.

Logic tells us that the stress, isolation, and depression that can come with job loss or the inability to work or find a job increases the likelihood of drug or alcohol abuse. Sadly, scientific research backs up this logic.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which was conducted prior to the pandemic, 17 percent of unemployed workers were addicted to drugs or alcohol. This is almost double the rate of full-time workers who were addicted (9 percent). Because these statistics are based on self-reported cases, the true rate of addiction is likely much higher.

This has led some to question whether addiction and the ensuing decrease in productivity and reliability are more likely to cause unemployment, or unemployment is more likely to cause addiction. Results of the survey point to unemployment causing those who have lost their jobs to turn to drugs or alcohol.

These findings are reinforced by a comprehensive analysis of 28 studies from 1990 to 2015. This analysis, published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, found evidence to indicate that recessions and unemployment resulted in higher levels of psychological stress, leading to increased substance use. More hours of unstructured time, more hours of isolation, and the social exclusion that can occur when unemployed contributed to this stress and the addiction that often followed.

Researchers concluded that psychological support is important for people who have lost their job and are suffering financial hardship. This is especially true for those who have struggled with addiction in the past and are at an increased risk of relapse.

Unemployment and Addiction to Opioids

A new report from BMC Psychiatry, which examined substance use treatment admissions from 1993 to 2016, found that the unemployment rate was significantly associated with substance abuse treatment admissions.

More specifically, the report showed a correlation between an increase in the unemployment rate and an increase in treatment admissions for opioid-related substance use disorders. The report also pointed to previous studies that showed a connection between unemployment and addiction to opioids, opioid death rate, and opioid overdose emergency department visit rate.

Researchers concluded that unemployment during an economic downturn can lead people to rely on substance use to cope. This creates a greater need for addiction treatment centers to help people deal with problematic substance use.

Find Yourself at West Valley Detox

If you’ve turned to drugs or alcohol after losing your job, or you fear that substance abuse could cost you a job if you can’t get your addiction under control, West Valley Detox can help.

We offer our co-ed detox programs and personalized substance abuse treatment from our Los Angeles detox center. The combination of unemployment and substance abuse can be a difficult burden to bear, but you don’t have to struggle alone. For more information about our co-ed medical detox program, contact West Valley Detox today.

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