Kevin Morris 10m 1,487
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Not all careers are created equal. Some are considered dream jobs, while some describe other careers as their worst nightmare. Sometimes, people commit to a job because of the potential for a big salary, while others continue to work a job because it’s what they could find, not because the pay is good. Whatever the reason, people often find themselves in high-stress jobs, and one of the unfortunate ways people deal with the high stress is by turning to stimulant drugs. Here’s how stimulant drugs have been used over the years and which jobs seem to lead to stimulant drug use the most.
Most people recognize cocaine as the ringleader of stimulant drugs. The history of cocaine use dates back to 1859, when it was first synthesized from the coca plant. The coca plant, native to South America, had been used medicinally for hundreds of years. The closing decades of the 19th century saw cocaine use in popular beverages like Coca-Cola and medical publications talking about the benefits of cocaine use. It didn’t take long to realize that cocaine was addictive and dangerous to one’s health. By 1914, the United States banned all over-the-counter (OTC) cocaine.
After cocaine, amphetamines were the next synthetic stimulants to make waves. These drugs were introduced into the over-the-counter market just a couple of decades after cocaine was banned. People could buy OTC amphetamines in the form of an inhaler to treat nasal congestion or in tablet form for sleep disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Just like cocaine, it didn’t take long to read the writing on the wall for abuse, and the drug is now legally available only as an FDA-approved medication with a non-refillable prescription.
What makes cocaine and amphetamines especially dangerous are the modifications people have made to them over the years. Cocaine can be found in a smokable form, widely known as crack. This is a much more dangerous way of ingesting cocaine because it reaches the brain faster and has a more intense effect on the body. Amphetamine use has seen a similar danger in the advent of meth, a modified version of amphetamine with chemicals and ingredients found in OTC allergy medicines. Crystal meth is the smokable version of meth, and it poses the same heightened danger that crack does.
While cocaine use is still a serious threat today, amphetamine use, both in prescription drugs like Adderall and illicit forms like meth, are more pervasive because of their cheaper production and easier distribution methods compared to cocaine.
Now that we’ve looked at the threat of stimulant drugs over the past few centuries, what can we learn about how these drugs have been used in high-stress jobs over the years? Of all demographics that abuse cocaine, construction workers, mining, and extraction workers are at the top of the list. Admittedly, how to rank jobs as high stress is somewhat unofficial because jobs can vary from situation to situation. However, Business News Daily has helpful criteria for what makes a job stressful.
Some of these include the amount of travel, deadlines, physical demands, hazards, life risks, and competition. Here are the top 10 high-stress jobs, combining the rankings from Business News and U.S. News & World Report, which shares data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Enlisted military personnel
- IT Manager
- Airline pilot
- Police officer
The National Safety Council (NCS) provides data for jobs with the highest potential for substance use disorders. At the top of the list, many of the same professions considered stressful can be found, such as construction, public service, transportation, and finance. This shows a strong relationship between high-stress jobs and the high potential for drug abuse.
Johns Hopkins University points to a rise in Adderall abuse by young adults, who use the amphetamine drug initially as a study aid but become dependent on it in their careers. Many of the jobs listed as high stress include long work hours and odd shifts, which create an environment where people might turn to stimulants to try staying sharp while on the clock.
There are also confessions from the medical community that estimate upward of 15% of doctors are addicted to drugs. Add the high stresses of the job to increased access to medical supplies and the authority to write prescriptions, and you have a high potential for abuse. Along with doctors, military personnel struggle with stimulant drug abuse. Amphetamines have always been a potential “performance-enhancer” recipe, with a history of use in soldiers dating back to World War II. However, today the abuse of amphetamines is largely due to prescription Adderall, with ADHD among the highest reported reasons for using stimulants. While some stimulants are available with a proper prescription, misuse and/or violations in some military commands can lead to punishment or discharge.
While this has not been an exhaustive investigation into stimulant drugs or high-stress jobs, we’ve been able to look at the clear connection between these positions and the potential for stimulant drug use. Knowing this connection can help us have a better grasp on why people might turn to these drugs and how a seemingly harmless drive toward productivity in college days can lead to a severe outcome when drug use is taken into careers that are already stressful.
If the history of stimulant use teaches us anything, it’s the hard lesson that these drugs overpromise and underdeliver. Sooner or later, stimulant drug users experience a stimulant crash, either in their health, their career, or both. If you or someone you know are considering turning to stimulant drugs to cope with a high-stress career, look for natural ways to de-stress. Stimulant drugs will only worsen stressful careers over time.
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