How Is Workaholism Linked to Substance Abuse?

While workaholism (more properly known as ergomania) is not currently classified as a mental illness or disorder in itself, it could indicate the presence of other serious mental health conditions. Some of these include OCD and OCPD, anxiety disorders, and even substance use disorder (SUD).

Substance use disorder can have some complex links with ergomania. Not only do some people use drugs to enable them to work more, the other mental conditions that commonly co-occur with it also tend to influence substance use as well.

Below are some of the known links between workaholism and substance use disorder. Check out these resources on inpatient drug rehab in Dallas to learn more.

1.) Drugs and Alcohol are Often Used to Unwind

It’s undeniable that strong drinking and drug-taking subcultures are prevalent in many occupations throughout the United States. The “work hard, play hard” ethos also continues to be highly influential, especially for people in high-stress jobs.

People who work longer will usually accumulate higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol compared to colleagues who work fewer hours. These hormones are responsible for the “fight or flight” response and are useful for many people in short bursts.

However, these chemicals can take time to clear out from one’s system, which means people could be in this stressed state long after they’ve gone off the clock. This often leaves many individuals wound up and anxious after hours, which is something that only gets worse the more they work.

This often leads many to turn to depressant substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines to relax. While there may be some benefit in the short term, the body can quickly adapt to these substances, requiring larger, more frequent doses, which may lead to a substance use disorder.

2.) Stimulants Might Be Used to Keep Up With Work

Professional athletes are by no means the only people who misuse drugs to improve their performance. Many regular, everyday people may do the same as well, especially when there is pressure to keep one’s job or maintain high standards.

College students, pilots, commodities brokers, and long-haul truck drivers, for instance, are at particularly high risk for stimulant abuse compared to the general population. Drugs like prescription amphetamines, crystal meth, and cocaine or even unhealthy amounts of caffeine and nicotine are often used to help individuals keep up with the high demands made on them. Sometimes, they may do so to keep up with their own expectations of themselves.

However, this type of drug use is never sustainable. This type of frequent drug use often results in an SUD and a severe crash from withdrawals, should the person try to quit.

3.) Sleep Problems May Cause Drug Use

People with ergomania often suffer from poor sleep quality. This may be to residual stress hormones as mentioned earlier, but also potentially due to an underlying anxiety disorder. Those that use stimulants to help them with work performance may find difficulty sleeping as well. This could potentially lead to the abuse of sedatives as a coping strategy.

4.) They May Desire to Be More Creative

There is now significant hype over the use of hallucinogen drugs like LSD, ketamine, and psilocybe mushrooms and their potential for allowing a greater degree of creativity or focus. Though initial research into these substances seems promising on the surface, in reality, there are a lot of serious negatives, as well.

This is largely because most people who use these drugs ostensibly for productivity purposes are not able to control their doses accurately. This is especially true as illicit drugs can vary wildly in their potency, increasing the risk of unwanted effects.

Signs of Ergomania

Workaholics can be chiefly distinguished from people who simply work hard in their ability to leave work behind after hours. People with ergomania typically work or think about work even on their days or during vacations.

Other signs can include the following:

  • Working over 50 hours a week
  • Using substances to facilitate work
  • Using substances to recover from work
  • Working in inappropriate settings, like during family events
  • Taking work home every day
  • Working when sick, even at the expense of others or of real productivity
  • Not particularly concerned with working efficiently or effectively
  • A lack of hobbies or personal interests
  • Deprioritizing health, personal relationships, or hygiene to facilitate work
  • Doing these despite not particularly loving or enjoying your job

Am I Working Too Much?

Workaholism is largely contextual. For instance, an entrepreneur pursuing their own ambitions is far less likely to have as many negative mental health effects from overworking as someone who merely works for them for a tiny fraction of the income. In any case, if you’re suffering from different physical and mental health conditions or are using drugs to help you cope with work, it may be a sign of a more serious issue.

If you suspect you have ergomania, seek help from a qualified mental health professional immediately. Early treatment often results in simpler interventions and better long-term outcomes.

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