Drug Abuse Amongst Business Executives

In the 80’s many people associated the executives of the world’s stock exchanges and large corporate enterprises with cocaine use and booze laden VIP parties. Moving forward to 2018 and drug abuse in the business world is higher than ever. In fact, it’s more common than many people even realise. However, cocaine is no longer the drug of choice for business executives. Now marijuana, Oxycodone, Adderall and amphetamines are the most heavily abused. You may wonder why abuse is so frequent in this elite world; even more so, why it goes relatively unnoticed or ignored. With the recent legalisation in many US states as well as Canada we expect this trend to continue and only increase.

Why Some Executives Use Drugs

To answer these questions, you have to examine the inner workings of the business world, but first let’s take a close look at an interesting study from the 70’s by Dr. Bruce Alexander, a Psychology professor in Vancouver, carried out a study in the 1970’s to find out why drugs were so addictive. He put a rat alone in a cage with two water bottles. One was pure water and the other was laced with cocaine. Overtime, the rat became addicted to the cocaine laced water and died. From there, the professor wondered what would happen if the environment and conditions were altered. He built a massive rat park with cushions, balls, fancy food, and tunnels and placed several rats in that park. He also added cocaine laced water and pure fresh water. The results showed that these rats played, explored and engaged with other rats. They stayed away from the cocaine laced water. The exception was the inactive, loner-type rats; these went to the cocaine laced water and died. Now this research was carried out just as studies on addiction were beginning to take hold. Nowadays, we understand that it is often a combination of past traumas, underlying problems, social conditions or environmental factors which can lead to an addiction. In the case of business executives, these men and women are often under huge amounts of pressure, stress and anxiety. Coupled with strict deadlines, risky moves and their overall high profile careers, you may start to understand why drugs become an escape.

High Pressure in the Executives’ Workplace

The way in which addiction manifests across the different demographic groups varies. For adolescents, it’s often peer pressure. Models, dancers and fighters may abuse to stay thin. For business executives, drug abuse tends to stem from the sheer pressure of the job. Day to day activities could involve the negotiating of multi-million dollar contracts, making financial decisions which could make or break the company and sacrificing both personal and family time for work. These will eventually take a toll on a person. To add to these issues, there is often a lack of time to cope with such stressors in a positive way. Exercise, healthy eating, writing, engaging in a hobby or even sleep can become impossible to manage. An executives career can begin to take hold of their life and leave them little to no time for rest and personal care. This will lead to an imbalance in the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing - accumulating stress, anxiety and depression. All of these can trigger the urge to abuse drugs or alcohol. Stimulants may be used to curb tiredness and keep up with the long hours. Marijuana could be implored to escape and painkillers like Oxycodone could initially be used to ward of back pain, eventually be used to take the edge off when they do return home.

Society’s Role in Addiction:

In western societies, success means everything. You are told from the time of a young age to be successful. Students are prepped for their careers as early as 12 years old. The intense expectation of being “great” continues through high school and into college where all night studies are required just to get an assignment done. Directly out of college, the business world often expects no less than 60 hour work weeks, with 70-80 hours being more accurate. Nowhere is there any attention given to teaching people how to deal with stress, pressure and mental or emotional exertion. A person’s mental health can be very fragile and in such a competitive, high pressure workplace, even the most productive person will eventually crash.

Signs of Drug Abuse in Business Executives

Often business executives do not realise how much alcohol or drugs they’re using. Moreover, family members may have no idea because they’re not around them. For many executives with an addiction, they’ll end up hitting rock bottom before realising the seriousness of the situation. If you’re questioning whether or not you or a loved one has a problem, the following are widely considered the warning signs:

  • You may begin to neglect responsibilities at work. Arriving late for important meetings, missing deadlines or performing mathematical errors you never make becomes common place. Eventually you may show up to work intoxicated or hung-over.
  • You’re engaging in risky behaviours like unprotected sexual encounters, gambling, stock trading or overspending.
  • Although friends and family have witnessed and expressed concern about your patterns and behaviour, you continue to abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • To relieve anxiety, pressure and stress, you turn to substances rather than positive coping methods like exercising, writing, meditating or talking with a close friend.
  • As a tolerance builds, you find yourself using while you’re at work. Overtime, you need more of the drug to get the same effect. Eventually, you could find yourself in sketchy parts of town looking for more of the drug.
  • When you cannot drink or use, you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, shakiness, muscle pain, insomnia, fatigue, cramping, nausea, cold sweating and headaches.

Keep in mind that it’s common for business executives to have a co-occurring addiction to alcohol and another second type of drug like painkillers or cocaine. These interactions produce very serious effects in the body and can be lethal. For this reason, no one should ever quit cold turkey, but rather seek out the help and expertise of a private rehab centre.

How a Business Executive Can Get Help for an Addiction

If you are working as a business executive and have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you can get help. There is no shame or judgment when it comes to abuse and addiction. With an intensive, well rounded treatment approach, you can equip yourself with the tools and techniques you need to continue your career in a sober, healthier way.