Is Addiction Affecting Your Job Performance?
If you’re struggling with drugs or alcohol, you’re likely wondering how that impacts the rest of your life. Most of us are aware of the concept of “high functioning addicts” in which someone can seemingly power through work and life responsibilities – while maintaining an addiction. Unfortunately, that stereotype is often incredibly harmful, because it allows people to enable their own continued addiction, simply because they’re continuing to function in a corporate or work environment.
The thing is, addiction will always harm your job performance. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. And, even if you’re outperforming everyone else on the floor. We’ll discuss why and how in the article below, so you can get insight into how continuous drug and alcohol use or abuse affects your workday and your performance.
Addiction and Mood
Most people don’t realize that addiction doesn’t make them very positive people. But, if your entire mental process is built around surviving work, family, and social life to use or drink when you’re free, you’re obviously not a very pleasant person to be around. Addiction negatively impacts your mood in a lot of ways. For example, you’re highly likely to have mood swings, to be irritable, and to experience fatigue when struggling with a substance use disorder. Why? The causes range from simple dehydration to ongoing malnutrition and lack of sleep all the way to real and long-term changes in the brain.
Sleep and Performance
Sleep has a massive impact on work and addiction has a massive impact on sleep. For example, if you don’t sleep enough, you’re going to be irritable and cranky. You’re also going to be less capable of making good decisions. But, poor sleep doesn’t stop there. It literally makes you less capable of interacting with and engaging with your peers, of putting your thoughts into words, and of making appropriate quality assessments. If you’re staying up late drinking of using, you’re not getting enough sleep.
That’s without stopping to consider that shifts in dopamine and serotonin, as caused by addiction, tend to interrupt sleeping patterns. Withdrawal, even light withdrawal, also has a strong tendency to cause insomnia.
Nutritional and Performance
Nearly all substances also wreak havoc on your diet and nutritional intake. For example, most drugs dehydrate you, which is the primary cause of hangovers. If you go into work with a constant hangover, there’s no amount of painkillers that will make that fully better. You’re still functioning with a handicap, and it will show in your performance and your mood. Most importantly, substances affect the nutrition in many other ways. For example, there’s the obvious factor that people who are drunk or high make poor nutritional choices. Cannabis tends to result in snacking and fatty foods. Methamphetamine tends to result in avoiding food and relying on sugary drinks. And, alcohol tends to prompt people to eat too much fat and salt. Eventually, most intoxicants also damage the gastrointestinal system over time, making your intestines less able to absorb the nutrients you need to stay healthy. That’s why 74% of drug addicts show signs of nutrient deficiency. Most importantly, nutrient deficiency turns into symptoms like lethargy, irritability, depression, low mood, fatigue, etc. Even if you’re not linking symptoms of feeling unwell to your addiction, it is likely the root cause.
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Changes to the Brain
Finally, long-term drug and alcohol abuse change the brain in several ways. The first and most obvious is the buildup of tolerance, where the brain lowers response to dopamine and serotonin. This is a natural result of flooding the brain with too much of either – but has extreme negative effects. For example, you have to take more of the intoxicating substance to achieve the same effect. But you’re also less likely to be able to function normally when not drunk or high, because your reward circuit doesn’t work the same. That means you feel less good about yourself when achieving something, when working together with your colleagues, and therefore you become less invested. You start working for no other reason than that you have to. That can be a significant drag on working with you. It can also be a significant impediment to creativity, drive, and passion. If you don’t have those, your work performance will drop, no matter how hard you push yourself.
Those changes in dopamine and serotonin receptors are just part of what happens to your brain. For example, most long-term substance abusers see impacts to grey matter (reduction in volume), changes in the shape of the hippocampus, and changes in other areas of the brain. These impact decision-making, impulsivity, empathy, and emotional control. Essentially, you become more impulsive, more reckless, more irritable, more quick to anger, more quick to feel strong negative emotions, and more likely to chase sensation-seeking by doing things for the thrill. That obviously impacts your ability to work.
Using at Work
Most people don’t start using at work until they’re very addicted. But, eventually you might not have a choice. For example, if you start to go into withdrawal, you might actually need to drink or use at work to prevent withdrawal symptoms. That’s especially true if you work at a job that requires that you have steady hands or full concentration. E.g., as a doctor.
Yet, if you are using at work, your substance use is affecting your performance, your behavior, and your ability to do your job well. Your judgement is affected at all times. And, that holds true whether you’re taking just enough to get through the day or taking enough to actually feel high.
Signs You’re Having Problems at Work
If you’re struggling with drugs or alcohol, you probably need help. If you’re struggling enough that you’re looking this up, that’s almost certainly the case. But, if you need further confirmation that you might want to look for help, the following symptoms of substance abuse affecting your work are strong indicators you should be asking for help to get into drug rehab or alcohol addiction treatment.
- You sometimes or frequently show up late to work because of hangovers
- You sometimes miss work because of hangovers
- You’ve been late because you forgot what day it was
- You’ve gone to work on no sleep
- You’ve gone to work with a massive hangover
- You’ve made decisions that were erratic or poorly judged and regretted them later
- You steal at work
- You have more arguments and disagreements at work than ever before
- You think about doing or using drugs or alcohol while at work
- You have multiple DUIs
- You frequently have to apologize for yourself and your actions, e.g., outbursts, or have a high rate of turnover of the people working under you
- You have more difficulty completing tasks
- Focus and concentration and more difficult
- You’re frequently tired and just thinking about getting home and relaxing
If you’re drinking or using all or even most days, you have a substance use problem and you should get treatment. It is affecting your work, and likely more than you realize. But, your work is a lot less important than you as a person. Prolonged substance use damages your health, your mental health, and your long-term ability to recover. It hurts your career, your social life, your interpersonal relationships, and your family. Moving into rehab does more than just save your career – it can help you set up a new foundation for rebuilding your life in a way that doesn’t require you to use drugs or alcohol to enjoy it.