Diners, Drive-Throughs, And Drugs: Why Addiction Rates Are Rising among Hotel and Food Service Workers

Substance use and alcohol abuse are on the increase in the United States. Specifically, Americans are using more methamphetamine, and heroin, while binge drinking among men and women remains high. Treatment centers continue to help those who become addicted to drugs and alcohol through a combination of individual/group counseling and support resources. But have you ever wondered who these people are who enter substance abuse treatment centers? Chances are, you ate a burger prepared by someone with a meth problem or walked into a hotel room cleaned by someone addicted to heroin. In fact, 19% of hotel employees and food service workers—nearly one in five—struggle with substance abuse.

Hotel and food service workers have the highest rate of drug use

In a recent study of drug use by those employed in various occupations, the highest rates were found among hotel employees and food service workers. Miners came in with high rates of drinking: 17.5% of miners surveyed admitted to excessive alcohol consumption. Drug use among construction workers decreased from 17% in 2007 to 14% in 2012. Social services and health care employees report just slightly over four percent of them drink heavily. But substance abuse rates of those in two hospitality industries, accommodations and food service, have increased from 17% to 19% in recent years.

Reasons for high drug use 

Construction can certainly be a stressful job, as are occupations in health care and social services. Why are rates of substance abuse low or decreasing among these occupations but rising among those in the hotel and food service industries? Here are some ideas.

  1. High stress. You may go to a restaurant to enjoy a relaxing meal, but the cooks and serving staff are scrambling to provide you with quality food in a timely fashion. Employees balance the demands of customers, supervisors, and coworkers all at the same time, usually in a confined space. Alcohol beckons, offering to take the edge off that stress.

  2. High activity. Food service is a physically demanding occupation. Both cooks and service staff are on their feet for hours at a time, always moving, in a fairly confined space. Hotel employees—be it at the front desk or on the cleaning crew—are always busy as they seek to please guests. Stimulant drugs offer quick energy for tired workers.

  3. Frequent customer complaints. Cooks get comebacks, wait staff get in-your-face diatribes, front desk clerks get complaints—and all are expected to respond with a smile because "the customer is always right." Yet customers are often rude, and all that internalized confrontation can build to a frenzy inside workers, begging for release. Drugs and alcohol are an easy escape.

The next time you are out for a meal or check into a hotel, go easy on the workers who assist you.

If you are a hotel or food service worker who is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, this study shows that treatment centers understand your battle. Further, they have helped many who have raced around a restaurant or hotel in your shoes. Make an appointment with an admissions counselor today, such as one from Dr. Lewis A. Weber & Associates.