Consequences of Psychoactive Substances

Food, is something we all love. Restaurant, a place we all go to sit down and enjoy a meal. Sanity, most of us have it. But have we took a second to reflect and wonder about the people behind the scenes making sure we get fed? Not only that we get fed, but we get fed in a rather enjoyable way. Truth is, the restaurant industry is one the most brutal, backbreaking, and socially intense industries out there. But how do these things come into play in terms of mental health? While it all comes down to self-control and self- sufficiency working in this industry can lead to prolonged chronic stress and excessive substance abuse. Because one has to be extremely alert in an intense, fast-paced environment, substances become an easy way to control yourself and help you stay alert which can lead to self-harm and suicide.

Although stress can be healthy, chronic and prolonged stress isn’t good for anyone, it leads to a series of both physiological and psychological effects that aren’t healthy in the slightest. That headache that keeps reoccurring? One has eight hours of sleep and still feels exhausted? A person is becoming unusually irritable and angry? A person begins smoking cigarettes and drinking? Stress. Stress could be the culprit of all of these effects.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, the average workweek for Americans was calculated at 34.5 hours (2017). They take into account, age, occupation, sex, and a list of other factors. I bring that up to introduce the average workweek for managers and chefs for the restaurant business, which according to ( stats ab work week ) is fifty hours or more. Leaving virtually no ‘free time and only time to sleep and maybe eat. The hours alone are enough to make someone go crazy, but people in every field can work up to that much. The essence of what sets this industry apart is the intensity for those fifty-plus hours, people are constantly alert and engaged in what feels like a fifty-hour-long party. Naturally, working these long hours at such a high pace can lead to workplace burnout. Burnout is a composition of physical and mental exhaustion, paired with feelings of incompetence and self-doubt. Burn out alone is a scary thing and one should get rest and take a break if they are in the face of a demon but the truth of the matter is most employees have to work as much as they do to simply make a living, making a break a distant thought. Garrett Nix a chef at Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria said,“I worked for three weeks straight, no break, hardly any sleep, and when I finally got a day off they called me in because someone got sick, at that moment I knew this industry wasn’t worth a damn and neither was I.

I asked myself how long I could continue doing this and here I am five years later still beaten and bruised just less level-headed,” (2018). Besides the long working hours, “emotional labor” is also another leading factor of burnout. In the service industry, a smile and a happy face is an essential part of the job it makes the customer feel welcome and valued. ( Pullman 1). But does the employee feel valued after hours of being yelled at, criticized, and overworked? Forcing a smile and deep emotions of joy under these conditions lead to you overworking yourself emotionally. Which, outside the workplace can result in irritability and social isolation.

So why the substances? Why do so many people turn to the bottle, the line or the tobacco in this industry? Simply put, coping. Anthony Bourdain said it best, “Drugs and addiction are two different things.” Most people in this industry are doing drugs to cope with the stress and/or to stay alert on the job. The most common drug used in this industry is cocaine which is a stimulant. It increases the dopamine levels and gives you a burst of adrenaline turning you into bugs bunny for four to eight hours at a time. Now, imagine why that would be useful in this industry and why so many people in this industry turn to it after so many years. Drugs also help to suppress the signals of stress being sent to the brain making one feel numb which makes it difficult for a person to come to terms with their issues whilst not under the influence. Thus, turning drug use for stimulation and coping to a potentially life-threatening addiction. “We’re an industry that’s a little bit different,” says Mickey Bakst, general manager of Charleston Grill in South Carolina. As a recovering alcoholic, he started attending AA in 1982 and he recalls there not being a single person from the restaurant industry.

He reflects, “Nobody knew what it was like to go home at one in the morning and be so wide awake that I couldn’t sleep.” Chef Cataldo was raised around drugs and had his first encounter with a substance when he was in middle school. When he began working in the industry he was heavily surrounded by drugs and alcohol and fell into an all too familiar situation. He began to neglect financial responsibilities in order to afford drugs and alcohol which eventually lead him homeless. He started living in a friends place, skipping meals, only eating at work or out of the garbage. Freeloading and barely existing he began to contemplate suicide, “It became heavier and heavier,” he says. Veteran clinician Jordan Hansen, a program manager for addiction resource company Hazelden Publishing says, most of the center’s patients are in the restaurant industry. “The work environments present some unique challenges for people trying to live a life of recovery,” Hansen says. “It isn’t uncommon for people to have their social lives revolve around their place of employment. There seems to be more tolerance for people using or drinking on the job among these types of settings.”

They are in social situations for a majority of their time and they are constantly surrounded by people which makes them develop a new sense of what a ‘normal’ person is. Henson recalls his time in the industry describing how they used cocaine or alcohol to simply get through a shift. It wasn’t until he stopped working in the industry that he realized average people don’t do this to simply get through work. ( Morioka 1). Most people begin to realize that they’re ruining themselves and try to get help but the issues aren’t that they don’t want help is that they are in the face of substances at the workplace and out. The mid shift talks with your coworkers over a beer and the after-work rants accompanied with shots are what this industry does. Taking that aspect away can make someone in this industry feel lonely and unrelatable to their coworkers. Prolonged use of substances can make it hard to function not only in the workplace but in life. Once an addiction forms it begins to become apart of your daily routine rather than an easy way to get through a shift. Substance abuse can contribute to social isolation, depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and extreme health issues.

According to a study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association, they found that the hospitality and food service industry has the highest rates of substance and third-highest rate for extreme alcohol abuse. Kat Kinsman, the senior food and drinks editor for Extra Crispy, made a Facebook group in 2016 where she allows chefs to come and discuss their mental health, substance abuse and just everyday stresses with people who are in similar or same situations. It provides them with a safe space to speak openly without judgment, “You need someone who gets that, and understands the specific pressure of being surrounded by alcohol and revelry and drugs all the time,’ says Kinsman. More often than not people in this industry have a hard time opening up to colleagues and those around them so they find ways to cope with the issues themselves. Also, most chefs don’t have insurance which puts them in an odd place, even if they want to get the help they can’t afford it and those helpful resources can be hard to obtain.

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Consequences Of Psychoactive Substances. (2022, Aug 23). Retrieved September 23, 2022 , from

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