Is Your Work Leading to Addictions?

There are many ways in which people can become addicted to substances. Work can sometimes be a major influence. For instance, a high-pressure job could cause you to turn to substances for stress relief. In other job environments, drinking or taking drugs could be part of the culture. Below are just some of the types of addiction that can occur as a result of work and how you can beat them.


Many of us consume caffeine every day – either in coffee, chocolate, soft drinks or energy drinks. It can be an effective way to energise us when we’re tired, helping us to be more alert and productive. 

Consuming small amounts of caffeine each day generally doesn’t have a negative effect. In fact, there are many health benefits to consuming caffeine. However, health problems may start to occur if you’re regularly consuming over 400mg per day (that’s the equivalent of about 4 coffees, 10 cans of cola or 2 energy drinks). Too much caffeine can lead to anxiety, headaches, insomnia, diarrhea, nausea, seizures and even heart attacks.  

If you’ve constantly got a coffee on your desk or you’re constantly downing energy drinks to get through your night shift, consider whether it could be time to cut back. Start revisualising caffeine as a treat.


Do you regularly unwind from work in the evenings by drinking a bottle of wine to yourself at home? Or do you end each shift by going out for drinks with colleagues?

In both cases, you could be drinking too much. It’s recommended that men and women don’t consume more than 14 units per week. That’s about 6 pints of beer or 1 ½ bottles of wine. The occasional binge doesn’t hurt, but if you’re exceeding the recommended unit intake every week, you may want to consider reducing your intake for the sake of your health.

Alcohol abuse can be a particular problem if it starts to negatively affect your behaviour. If you start to neglect important responsibilities, act aggressively to others or take reckless risks, you might want to consider cutting back. 


Many smokers find that they smoke more when in a high-pressure job. This can speed up the negative health effects of smoking.

While nicotine can be an effective stressbuster, its effects are only temporary and withdrawal can often increase stress levels. Giving up smoking is recommended in order to not just protect your health but reduce stress at work. If you’re not able to give up completely yet, you should at least consider cutting down those cigarette breaks to reduce any damage.


Some jobs can cause people to become addicted to harder substances. Cocaine is a common example – by increasing confidence and increasing energy levels, it can make many people more productive at work and may even be encouraged in some industries. 

Of course, the negative effects of such drugs can swiftly creep on people. If your job is causing you to take drugs that you might not ordinarily have taken before, you should consider taking action to quit.

Beating an addiction

When beating an addiction caused by work, the first thing you should consider is whether your job is the problem. If you hate your job and the stress is causing you to turn to substances, you may find that you’re better off quitting your job. A job that you enjoy – or at the very least one that is not too stressful – may not cause you to resort to substances.

There are many other ways in which you can beat an addiction. Below are a few steps you could take:

Seek professional help

When it comes to a serious alcohol problem or drug problem, you may benefit from seeking out therapy or rehabilitation. Fighting withdrawal symptoms alone could be difficult and even dangerous in some cases. With the help of professionals, you can conquer these withdrawal symptoms and get clean.

There are outpatient services out there such as Enterhealth which can help to offer treatment without having to take long periods off work. Such a service could be less disruptive to your income and may be easier to hide from a colleague or employer if your behaviour isn’t already known.

Switch to healthier alternatives to substances

When giving up or cutting back on a substance, it can be important to find a way of filling the void. There may be ways of cutting out the harmful stuff while still maintaining the habit. For instance, you could start drinking decaf coffee, you could start drinking non-alcoholic beer or you could start vaping instead of smoking. 

If you’re taking substances as a remedy for stress, consider whether there could be other stress busting techniques that you could be using. Instead of turning to alcohol after work, you could destress by exercising, running a hot bath, listening to music or engaging in a hobby. Instead of taking cigarette breaks at work, you could practice 5-minute meditation sessions or even take a brisk walk on your lunch break. 

Track your progress

When cutting back on a substance, it can often help to track progress of how you’re doing in order to motivate you. You’ll be able to set milestone targets for yourself and you’ll be able to look back at how far you’ve come. There may even be ways of rewarding yourself to help spur you on.

There are apps as listed here at Red Herring that you can use to track progress when giving up smoking or cutting down on alcohol. Alternatively, you may prefer to use a written diary or a calendar. Whenever you are tempted, remind yourself of the progress you’re making.

Don’t fall victim to peer pressure

In some job environments, you may find yourself surrounded by people that are smoking heavily, drinking heavily or even taking drugs. You should make sure that you’re not peer pressured into taking substances just because these people are. Consider being the positive influencer within your workforce.