The Connection Between Unemployment and Drug Abuse

Drug abuse can cause many problems in a person's life, including leading to losing one's job. Often unable to show up to work on time or be trusted to complete tasks correctly, many addicts have difficulty holding down a well-paying job. The other side of the coin, however, is that not having a job can also lead to drug use.
There are many reasons why drug addicts first use drugs, but not having a job can be a major one. There are several reasons for this. The first is simple boredom. Without a purpose to fill the day, one can only watch so much TV and browse the internet for so long. Many addicts that started out unemployed say that they were simply bored when a friend or acquaintance first offered them an illegal drug. Due to a lack of anywhere to be or anything to do, these drugs could add excitement and pleasure to otherwise dull days.
Another reason that unemployment can lead to drug abuse is due to the stress inherent in being out of a job. Without consistent, paying work, adults usually start to fear what will happen to them. Some obvious stressors include wondering how one will pay the bills or rent, purchase groceries and gas, etc. Finding a job itself costs money in printing out resumes and driving to interviews. Every day that a person goes unemployed, the stress builds and builds.
Drugs can seem like a path out of this stress. Because of their near-instant effects of artificial calmness, euphoria or optimism, these drugs can work as a temporary stopgap against the pressure and despair of being out of a job. When the drug's effect wears off, however, the addict is right back where he started, but his stress can be even higher. He now has even less money than when he started, because drugs are expensive.
This use can start a vicious cycle. The person is using drugs because he is running out of money, but the drug use itself causes him to lose more money. Realizing this, the addict will often use the drug again so he can once again slip back into a stress-free, blissful state. The cycle only ends when the addict completely burns out or eventually gets help.
The idea that unemployment can cause drug abuse isn't just an anecdotal story or a nice theory, though: several studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between high unemployment and higher drug use. The two seem to go hand-in-hand.
While all families should be aware of and watchful for the signs of drug addiction in their loved ones, this shows us that special care should be taken when someone we know or care about loses their job. While it may be difficult to immediately get them back into employment, you can help mitigate the chances of them starting to abuse drugs.
One way of doing that we have found successful is helping them focus on keeping purpose in their life. Help them work on applying for other jobs. Encourage them to spend time with family and friends (ideally ones that don't do drugs themselves, of course.) Help the person focus on the goal of returning to the work force, but also help them find productive ways to spend their time until that happens. We may not always see unemployment coming, but we can help ensure it does not lead to a drug problem that can ruin a life.
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