Unemployment and Addiction: A Dangerous Mix

The tremendous stress, rejection, fear and frequent bouts of depression that often result from being unemployed are high risk factors for the development of a substance abuse problem. Many people who are struggling with the negative effects of unemployment turn to alcohol or drugs to mitigate the discomfort and sense of helplessness they feel. This is a serious mistake, and it can destroy your entire life.

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The tremendous stress, rejection, fear and frequent bouts of depression that often result from being unemployed are high risk factors for the development of a substance abuse problem. Many people who are struggling with the negative effects of unemployment turn to alcohol or drugs to mitigate the discomfort and sense of helplessness they feel. This is a serious mistake, and it can destroy your entire life.

If you are struggling emotionally during a time of upheaval, it’s important to be aware of the potential for substance abuse, even if you’ve never had a problem in the past. There are holistic solutions available that can help you learn to cope with your situation and avoid the drug/alcohol pitfalls that destroys so many. If you regularly drink or take drugs to cope with depression and stress, or feel a growing temptation to do so, be proactive about the situation now – before things get out of control.

Start by taking a self-assessment test to determine if you might have a problem. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you ever driven while intoxicated or high?
  2. Have you or anyone else ever been injured as a result of your drinking or drug use?
  3. Are you having problems with work, school or family as a result of drinking or drug use?
  4. Have you broken promises because of drinking or drug use?
  5. Do you get angry if anyone mentions concerns about your drinking or drug use?
  6. Are plans frequently upset or cancelled because of your alcohol or drug use?
  7. Has your drinking or drug use caused family, job or legal problems?
  8. Do you drink or take drugs more heavily than you did a few years ago?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may need professional intervention. Make an appointment with a physician who handles addictions or find a facility that meets your needs and budget. There are many options available, from 12-step programs to counseling and inpatient detox.

Many people struggling with addictions do not seek help because they don’t want to admit there is a problem. Addiction is not a cause for shame or embarrassment. It is estimated that fully 10% of Americans are addicted to some type of substance. A large portion of these are people who are unemployed. Don’t let fear of what a family member or friend might think stop you from getting the help you need, and don’t try to go it alone.

In forming an assessment of possible abusive tendencies, it’s important to examine the issues involved in your job loss as well. Is it possible that substance abuse played a role? Were you often late, angry or overly emotional at work after a night out drinking? If so, get help now, before you find another job. Without intervention, the cycle will continue. You may find another job, but chances are good you will lose the next one as well if changes aren’t made.

Once you’ve taken the first step and admitted the problem exists, finding treatment options that are affordable and effective is the next step. If you are recently laid off, try to extend your insurance coverage using COBRA in order to ensure your medical expenses can be met.

If you are not a substance abuser, don’t make the mistake of thinking you could never be one. When you lose a job, go through a divorce or have to cope with any type of severe stress in life, substance abuse is a frequent result. It can happen to anyone. Take steps now to make sure you avoid this destructive problem.

Proactive prevention is key. During your time of unemployment, don’t allow yourself to withdraw. Continue to exercise regularly, involve yourself in networking and seek out fellowship with friends and family. Many people find prayer, meditation, yoga and other spiritual activities to be beneficial in combating the negative emotions that can lead to abuse.

Keep yourself busy with a schedule of positive endeavors – volunteer, walk in the park, treat yourself to a movie – sitting at home alone, dwelling on the past is a recipe for trouble. Preventing yourself from becoming dependent on a substance is much easier than dealing with a full-blown addiction. Take it seriously and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed.

Blog written by George Joseph, LCDC
George Joseph is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor who began his career in 1983. George is the CEO of The Right Step,...