Drug and alcohol addictions are getting a lot of media coverage, but for most of us, they seem far away and even impossible to apply to ourselves. But if you’re drinking or taking prescription or illicit drugs, and doing so on a regular basis, you might actually be chemically dependent. Most of us think of addicts as the kind of caricatures often seen on television, addiction has many faces. They can include functioning inside of society and your job roles. However, even if you are functioning, your addiction will affect your job performance and success.
Addiction can sneak up on us, and it doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to pain medication, alcohol, or something a little stronger, it will affect your life. Even if you’re high functioning, an addiction can and will affect your focus, your drive, your performance, and even your energy levels, and these will, in turn, affect your ability to perform well at work and even keep your job.
Are You Addicted?
Taking responsibility for addiction is often one of the most difficult steps for an addict. Most of us have learned that addiction is ugly, a sign of weak character and that it can ruin your life. Admitting that you’re a victim is hard. Unfortunately, many of us make small choices that lead us to addiction through self-medication, taking too much or even taking our prescription, or partying too hard. In fact, some studies show that self-medication, or using alcohol or drugs of any kind to deal with emotional or physical pain or stress outside of a doctor’s prescription, is one of the most common causes of addiction.
People start using these substances to feel better. Then their tolerance rises. They then take more to achieve the same result, develop a mental dependency and think they can’t feel okay without them, and they are addicted. This process affects millions of men and women every year, including those who have a legitimate prescription for a drug. While small quantities of a substance can seem harmless, if you take any drug in any regular quantity over time, you will likely eventually become addicted.
Substances like drugs and alcohol affect the dopamine receptors in our brains, changing how we receive pleasure, changing what makes us happy, and even changing our own perception of the world. However, the change is so slow that a regular user likely wouldn’t even notice it. Most of us have heard the phrase, “Addiction creeps up on you”, and it’s true. Entire books like “Alcohol Lied to Me” have been written about how addicts often think of their addiction as their best friend, even using it to replace emotional and mental support from family and loved ones. Unfortunately, this support is a lie and only leads to more damage. There are plenty of reasons to be addicted, and if you are, there’s no shame in it, just the importance of taking responsibility.
You are probably addicted if you:
- Feel like you need drugs or alcohol to function properly
- Rely on a substance to get you through stressful situations
- Think about using non-prescription drugs or alcohol outside of party situations
- Take prescription medication or drugs that you haven’t been prescribed
- Take risks to get or use a substance
- Use a substance when you know you have responsibilities
- Stay up to use a substance when you have things to do in the morning
- You suffer from withdrawal when you stop taking your substance
- You know you should stop but you convince yourself “one more” every time
- Feel guilty for taking it
- Your substance affects your health/performance/energy and you continue anyway
There are many other signs, but if you can evaluate that your substance is affecting your life negatively and you continue to take it, you’re probably addicted. Unfortunately, admitting that we are addicted is difficult thanks to a large amount of social stigma built up around addiction. However, once you admit that you have a problem, you can start taking steps to fix it.
How Addiction Affects Your Job Performance
Most drugs affect the dopamine receptors in your brain, which can change the way you make decisions. They also affect our performance, cognitive ability, motor skills, and other functions while we are using them, even if we are high-functioning addicts. This, in turn, creates a number of negative effects that change your focus, behavior, thought patterns, reactions, and ability to work well, which all affect your job performance.
Long term usage of drugs and alcohol dysregulates the stress system in the brain, changing how you react. This causes you to be more stressed in normal situations, and even causing stereotypical ‘addict’ behaviors, including agitation, anger, mood swings, and temper changes. In fact, many addicts struggle with mood swings and irritability. This can kick off domestic disputes, abuse at home, tension between family and friends, and tension. At work, it will also affect how you perform in a high-stress environment such as in a meeting or when facing deadlines, because it will cause you to be more stressed and potentially react badly. Dopamine directly affects stress, and by giving yourself regular dopamine high with your substance, you can cause your normal state to seem stressful.
Reduced Focus and Performance
You probably remember a time when you were a kid and you wanted something so badly that it was all you could think about. Whether that was a dog, a toy, or even something short term like a cookie. This is the same way your brain works when you are addicted. We’ve already discussed how substance addiction disrupts your body’s normal serotonin and dopamine system, which make up the reward system. By changing this, you change the body’s reward system so that the only thing you anticipate or that motivates you is the substance you are addicted to.
While this will be true in varying degrees depending on the extent of your addiction, it will change your motivation so that you are less likely to put in effort to perform quality work, less likely to be able to focus at work, less likely to do research or handle work given to you to take home, and even less likely to care about your job or your career at all.
Apathy causes you to be lazy, inconsiderate, uncaring, and unmotivated in anything that doesn’t involve your drug use. This will affect your job performance a great deal because you’ll find you don’t even care if you keep your job. Notes from your manager to step up your game, questions as to why you’re failing where you used to succeed, and even meetings with management won’t motivate you. In fact, they might actually push you into a downward spiral because of negative emotions.
Addicts find that their substance of choice slowly becomes the most important thing in their lives, so that not only do you want to return to your substance as quickly as possible, you will cease to care about your performance, your attitude, or anything other than getting back to your substance as quickly as possible. This will affect you even when your addiction is still in the early stages because your primary goal in the workplace will shift away from career achievements and towards getting off and going home.
Substance abusers often take risks, and this can show up in your job performance, in showing up late to work, in pushing deadlines, in taking shortcuts, and many other things. As a result, it often negatively affects your performance. You become sloppy, frequently late, or even start using your substance at work.
Getting Help for Drug or Alcohol Addiction
If you are addicted to any substance, your first step should be to evaluate your addiction and how it affects your life and then seek help. As many as 40% of addicts have a dual diagnosis of an additional psychological disorder so you probably need professional help. An additional 72% of addicts suffer from trauma, PTSD, abuse, and other issues that must be dealt with before you tackle the issues that pushed you towards addiction. A professional will be able to help you get clean, physically and mentally. This way you can fix the underlying issues behind your addiction, safely kick the habit through physical withdrawal, and build the tools to stay clean. Addiction affects every aspect of who you are but you can get your life back.
Addiction is a disease and no one starts using a substance with the intention of becoming an addict. However, if it is affecting your life, your job performance, or your existing career, it is important that you take the steps to get back on track so you regain control.
The Oceanfront Recovery Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program can help you or your loved one through the difficult and dangerous process of withdrawal and subsequent recovery from addiction. We have a wide array of therapy options available, including:
- Family Therapy Program
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment
- Mental Health Treatment Program
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Our clinicians focus on bringing the underlying causes of addiction to the surface with a modern and effective recovery program in a closed setting. Contact Oceanfront Recovery today for a confidential assessment, and begin the journey of recovery today. Call 877.296.7477 to learn more.