Substance Abuse Among White Collar Workers - It Happens

white collar workers get addicted tooSubstance abuse is not commonly associated with white collar executives. The poor, homeless, street-level criminals and younger people are often associated with drug addiction. The fact is that substance abuse is not just an issue among low-level criminals and those living in poverty; drug abuse is a considerable problem among high-level executives.

White collar workers may think they can hide their alcoholism or abuse of street drugs or prescription drugs. You may go to work every day, but the quality of your work likely suffers. Other employees may see changes in your behaviors and actions.Perhaps you are not sure whether you have an addiction or not. Discussing your substance abuse with a professional and obtaining treatment can get you back on the path to a productive, drug-free life.

Drug Addiction not Just a Problem with the Young

drug abuse in white collar workersWhen questioning whether you, a white collar co-worker or loved one is abusing drugs, it is imperative to recognize that drug abuse is not just a problem with younger people. The increase in substance abuse among older people is well recognized.

In a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health that compared drug abuse among younger and older adults, researchers discovered that the rates of alcohol abuse and abuse of other drugs was similar among both groups of the 327 study participants.

How Older Adults Perceive Drug Abuse

One important factor is that older adults were “less likely” to perceive their drug abuse as problematic (4). If you are a white collar executive, it is important to realize that your drug abuse can lead to addiction just as it can in a younger person.You may feel you have everything under control either due to your status as an executive or by the mere fact that you still show up for work every day. Perhaps you are still able to function because you are a long-term, older executive. Many medical professionals, politicians and other high-profile executives have admitted to drug abuse. Addiction does not discriminate against older people or by income level.

Perhaps you may have a couple drinks at lunch and a few more to relax after work. Maybe you take an extra pain pill or two to cope with job-related stressors. Maybe you take a few OxyContin, even though it was not prescribed for you.There are noted increases in substance abuse among white collar professionals, so you are not alone. In a study of 465 Japanese male white collar workers, researchers discovered that of 11 work stressor or work position variables, four were deemed “significant predictors of heavy alcohol consumption (3).” There is also a documented increase in the number of white collar workers abusing OxyContin and seeking treatment for their addiction.

Drug Treatment for White Collar Executives

White collar executives may fear treatment for a number of factors such as everyone will know about their addiction, fear of job loss and notions such as drug addiction does not happen to white collar executives.Treatment for white collar workers is confidential. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) calls for improved diagnosis and treatment of drug abuse among older adults, as an under-diagnosed and under-served population. With efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment of white collar drug abuse, it can only help increase treatment options.


  1. Drug Addiction in Health Care Professionals, U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control, (nd) Retrieved from
  2. Drug Facts: Understanding Dug Abuse and Addiction, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (Revised November 2012), Retrieved from
  3. Hagihara A, Tarumi K, Miller AS, Nebeshima F, Nobutomo K, Work stressors and alcohol consumption among white-collar workers: a signal detection approach, U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2000 May, Retrieved from
  4. Nemes S, Rao Pa, Zeiler C, Munley K, Holtz KD, Hoffman J, Computerized screening of substance abuse problems in a primary care setting: older vs. younger adults, U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2004 August 30, Retrieved from
  5. OxyContin Use Growing Among White-Collar Population, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 2004 February 23, Retrieved from
  6. Substance Abuse Among Older Adults, U.S. National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1998, Retrieved from

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