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Is Untreated SUD Leading to Struggles at Work?

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Drugs and alcohol are commonplace in many professional environments. While social drinking is generally not problematic, substance use disorder (SUD) causes many issues in a person’s professional and personal life. SUD is treatable; however, when it is left untreated it can lead to decreased professional performance and trouble coping with everyday stressors at work.

For working professionals, learning the signs and symptoms of SUD and getting help is vital. Getting treatment for SUD and co-occurring mental health disorders ultimately improves people’s professional lives. Treatment helps people to learn better ways to manage stress, communicate better, and increase their productivity and enjoyment of their work.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder

SUD is a mental health disorder that impacts a person’s brain and behavior. These changes lead to an individual having difficulty controlling their substance use. In other words, having SUD means an individual is physically dependent on drugs or alcohol, leading to behaviors based on their need for substances. Signs and symptoms of SUD include the following:

  • Feeling a need for drugs or alcohol
  • Intense urges to use drugs or alcohol to block out feelings or thoughts
  • Needing a larger amount of substance over time for the same effects
  • Prioritizing maintaining the supply of substances over other things
  • Trying and failing to stop the use of a substance
  • Continued use of a substance regardless of issues it is causing in life

The Formation of Substance Use Disorder

SUD impacts many individuals. While there are often certain stigmas around substance use, SUD can occur to any person regardless of socioeconomic status or other factors. However, multiple risk factors are involved in substance use and SUD, including the following:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Stress or trauma
  • Lack of coping skills leading to self-medicating

These factors do not necessarily mean someone will develop SUD. These factors simply indicate an increased risk.

How Substance Use Disorder Creates Problems at Work

When someone is struggling with SUD, it can create many issues at work and in other aspects of life. These problems will vary for each person. However, common issues include a lack of presence at work, increased accidents, and a change in professional performance.

Being Absent

One of the most common issues with SUD in the workplace is an increase in absences. When someone is struggling with substance use, they are more likely to call in sick due to complications from substance use. This may or may not be related to withdrawal, as substance use is a common cause of physical health concerns.

Being absent from work can also be related to a change in priorities. As a result of brain changes that occur from addiction, a person is more likely to prioritize getting more drugs and alcohol over work. This means that while they may know that going to work is important, their cravings may pull them away from work. As a result, they are likely to have an increase in unexplained and frequent absences.


If someone is struggling with substance abuse, it is well known that they are more likely to have accidents or close calls. These incidents impact their lives at work in multiple ways. First, accidents around their work can lead to issues with lack of performance, not meeting deadlines, or conflicts with co-workers. Secondly, accidents result in less physical presence at work. Whether they are unfocused due to an accident or unable to get to work, accidents can impact one’s work life.

Performance and Focus

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, changes occur in the brain over time. These changes lead to increased cravings and a physical dependency on substances. However, an article published in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice explains that substances also impact your ability to problem-solve, focus, and think clearly. The type of substance and the length of time a person uses it for does make a difference in how they are affected.

However, these changes create issues at work. Depending on a person’s job, they likely have a certain balance of focused and thoughtful work. One’s work usually requires one to be able to think and focus on the task at hand. If their ability to do so is inhibited, they are more likely to be less effective at their jobs. Therefore they are likely to have a decrease in their performance.

Getting Help for Substance Use Disorder

Untreated SUD can wreak havoc on one’s life. At work, people may find themselves unable to focus, missing more and more required functions, and having accidents that disrupt their work life. However, SUD is treatable. Treatment can help working professionals find a better work-life balance, learn to manage stress substance-free, manage conflicts in a healthy way, and make a routine that helps them to live sober. While it takes hard work and time, anyone can improve their career simply by getting help.

As a working professional, having untreated SUD is undoubtedly impacting your career and life at work. However, you can get help. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we offer treatment for addiction and mental health disorders that are designed for working professionals. Our program is designed with structure and flexibility that is meant to meet your unique needs in treatment. By working with us, you can learn how to live your life without drugs and alcohol, making you more effective and efficient in the workplace. To learn more about our programs and how we can help you, call us today at (949) 426-7962. Our staff is here to help you heal.


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