Unemployment Connection with Drug Use and Alcoholism


The paper is focused on the discussion of the impact of alcohol and drug misuse on the chances of employment and unemployment, as well as vice versa, the impact of unemployment on drug or / and alcohol addiction and anti-addiction treatment. The paper also considers connection between unemployment rate, business cycles and substance use. Based on the evidence of relevant studies, following hypothesis will be investigated. Alcohol and drug consumption that is associated with usage of dangerous to health substances (poor quality) is more prevalent among the unemployed. The unemployed are also more predisposed to the use of illegal and prescription drugs because they feel stressed and miserable, so they believe that drugs make them feel better at least for while. The unemployed are also more likely have alcohol and drug disorders, such as dependence or misuse due to the increased amount of free time and lack of sense of responsibility. As a consequence of alcohol and drugs abuse, the chances of finding and holding a job are catastrophically reduced, yet the likelihood of unemployment is respectively increased. On contrary, the paper investigate that unemployment, in its turn, is a momentous risk factor that provokes alcohol and drug abuse. The unemployment also facilitates development of disorders that are caused by alcohol and drug usage as well as escalates the threat of relapse after drug and alcohol anti-addiction program. As practice shows, patterns of drinking and drug addiction are procyclical. A decrease in drinking and drug misuse is usually observed when the economy is in the recession and the unemployment rate grows. Economic turnover, accompanied with unemployment growth and decreasing standards of living, intimidates the population and triggers a rise in the level of stress and depression among people. As a consequence, stressed people often resort to alcohol and drugs as means of relaxation. The paper also investigates the influence of socio-economic factors, including level of education as well as income of the social environment on the unemployment connection with drugs and alcoholism.



The paper examines unemployed part of the population that consumes drugs and / or alcohol on a regular basis. Research considers both male and female representatives of the population as well as all age groups of people.

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The paper investigates interdependent connection between economic business cycles, unemployment and substance abuse. First, it considers how stress may lead to misuse of dangerous substances. Secondly, it provides information how alcohol and drug misuse may lead to unemployment and, vice versa, how unemployment may lead to misuse of risky substances. It also addresses unfavorable impact of unemployment on anti-addiction treatment.


The paper reviews 10 scholarly sources of literature that are directly related to research, including journal articles, books, and relevant data taken from official sources. However, it does not constitute a complete and comprehensive review of the subject due to exceptionally wide body of literature, both theoretical and empirical that can not be reviewed in the framework of this paper.

Literature Review

There are a lot of studies that support the theory of correlation between unemployment and substance abuse. Nevertheless, quantitative data to provide statistical proves about direct relationship between substance abuse and unemployment is scant, and majorly limited by general information, with the exception of research that was made by CanadianCenter. The CanadianCenter of Substance Abuse published its research “The Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada” in 2006. This study is focused on the expenses of alcohol and drug abuse for those who are addicted to them. The study compares average income of those with alcohol and drug problems to the income of those without such problems and calculates the difference (Rehm et al., 2006). The study also considered the life quality loss (physical, mental, emotional damage) that was conditioned by term of addiction attributed to substance abuse. Goodman and Hankin investigated “both direct and indirect impacts of alcohol consumption on labor force participation and income, with controls for drug abuse and smoking” (Goodman & Hankin, 2006). The NESARC (National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions) collects multi-dimensional data on cigarette smoking, drug abuse and alcoholism. Different researches show that the use of alcohol has a considerable influence on the choice of employment. Inveterate drinkers are likely to choose part-time job or be unemployed, whereas social drinkers and abstainers prefer full-time job. Renwick and Krywonis (2002) state that unemployment among substance abusers is higher compared to the averages unemployment rates (5.6% for the U.S. in 2002) and constitutes approximately 37%. Individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs experience employment difficulties in terms of both obtaining and maintaining workplace (Yates et al., 2007). Study of Waldo and Gardiner are focused on the importance to be employed for those who were treated in rehabilitation anti-addiction centers. They assert that unemployment significantly increases risk of relapse (Waldo & Gardiner, 2004).

Business Cycles, Unemployment and Substance Abuse

Economic downturn usually leads to growth of unemployment rate and decreasing standards of living. Many people feel intimidated by possible loss of income, job and, mainly, habitual style of living. They do not feel secure and confident in future. Such thoughts result in the rise of the stress level and depression among people. As a consequence, stressed people may resort to alcohol and drugs as means of relaxation. However, particularly loss of job and, accordingly accustomed style of life often lead to substance misuse. Western society traditionally measure success of person by his / her career achievements. Therefore, people without a job often feel invalidated and defective. Many people also feel that they were underestimated and unfairly fired. Such thoughts provoked depression and desire to avoid unfairness of the world. Therefore, drinking and drug abuse became a way of getting rid of inferiority feeling and miserable living. Unemployment turns the payment of monthly bills and daily costs into extra pressures. Pressure accumulates and becomes unbearable so that the unemployed person may resort to alcohol or drugs as a way of alleviating this pressure. For many people, workplace is not just a means of living but rather place of socializing. Therefore, for some people losing their jobs means also losing habitual circle of daily communication. Therefore, these people feel isolation in addition to inferiority feeling and pressure of being without fixed income. For some people, too much free time is a dangerous thing. Lack of discipline of a daily job, on one side, and self-pity, on the other side, give an excuse to indulge into drugs or alcohol.

Socio-Economic Factors and Alcohol Misuse

Romelsjo in his research wrote that: “socio-economic factors influence the onset and continuation of alcohol misuse. In turn, socio-economic status can also be influenced by alcohol use” (Romelsjo et al.,2004). Romelsjo’s idea was also supported by Hemmingsson who studied an impact of alcohol usage in adolescence on later alcohol problems and socio-economic status (skilled or unskilled, manager or laborer). Hemmingsson found that the group of population who consumed alcohol before, during or after recruitment and had narrow network of socializing, previous issues with police or authorities had higher probability to belong to a low socio-economic group (unskilled work or unemployment) in the course of five years period.

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A Canadian research conducted by Marchand also investigated the influence of environment and socio-economic factors on alcohol usage. Marchand studied the impact of work conditions on alcohol usage. He examined how position in the organizational hierarchy influences an individual and what keeps an individual from drinking. Marchand found that high-risk of drinking is caused by a position of authority, whereas much less risk of drinking is related to a prestige and highly skilled position. He also found that drinking issues also depend on personal characteristics of an individual. Active social life outside the workplace helps to alleviate stress and prevent drinking (Marchand, 2008).

Socio-Economic Factors and Substance Abuse

A number of research findings indicate that alcohol and drug abuse is more common amongst the unemployed part of the population which has the lowest income and is the least educated. A research was conducted for the Substance Abuse Administration, in which 58,758 respondents participated over the years of 2004 through 2006 (Townsend, Dewa, Brittingham, Lane & Pergamit, 2006). The study indicated that unemployed respondents reported drug use on the constant basis either during the past month, past year or lifetime. Unemployed respondents also reported larger quantities and more frequent consumption of alcohol than those who were employed. The same research indicated that the highest rate of alcohol and drug dependence (39.5%) was amongst the unemployed respondents who have not graduated from the high school. The highest level of substance dependence was also found among those who had the lowest income (less than 10,000 dollars per year) (Townsend, Dewa, Brittingham, Lane & Pergamit, 2006). Findings of other research studies indicated that teenagers who had no intentions to go or graduate from college had tried heroin or / and cocaine three or four times more frequently that those students who had intention to go or graduate from college (Johnston & Bachman, 1999).

Connection between Substance Abuse and Dropping out of High School

The connection between substance usage and dropping out of high school were investigated by numerous researchers. It is found that dropping out of high school and substance usage are interrelated. At first students become bored or frustrated with school so they become less involved as well as start frequently demonstrating deviant and antisocial behavior. The influence of prior substance abuse on dropping out of school is contradictory because there are too many factors that influence substance usage by teenagers. However, social control hypothesis considers dropping out of high school as a protest and deviation from normal social behavior and, consequently, as a factor that increases the risk of drug usage (Krohn et al., 1995). Chatterji found out that cocaine and marijuana usage in high school decreases the number of years that student attends high school (Chatterji, 2006).

Drug Misuse and Unemployment

In recent years, a lot of studies examined relationship between drug usage and unemployment. British scholars examined the influence of drug misuse on the employment outcomes. They concentrate particular attention on the actual impact on employment and earnings (MacDonald & Pudney, 2001). MacDonald and Pudney analyzed answers of respondents aged 16 to 50 with respect to the drug abuse. Respondents aged over 50 years were excluded because the authors of research believed that drug dependence among this age is too small, consequently, insignificant. Research examined dependence of such drugs as cannabis, amphetamines and LSD, as well as opiates, powder and crack cocaine. MacDonald and Pudney made estimates for two age groups: 16-25 years and 26-50 years. The study demonstrated that, first of all, there is no connection between the past usage of “soft” drugs, such as amphetamines and / or cannabis and unemployment. However, young women were an exception to this finding. The study also made second discovery that there is direct association between past usage of “hard” drugs, such as crack cocaine and opiates and unemployment. In this case, old women were the only exception to this finding (MacDonald & Pudney, 2001).

Alcohol Misuse and Unemployment

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Alcohol misuse among the unemployed population usually co-exists with emotional and psychological personal problems. Recent research studies explored connections between alcohol consumption, hazardous substances, borderline to psychotic, behavior and unemployment. Studying the evidence of the health issues that were caused by unemployment and alcohol abuse and their impact on individuals and their families, Wilson and Walker established that the unemployed population that regularly imbibes alcohol, especially men, is exposed to higher risk of premature mortality, unsatisfactory emotional and psychological well-being, higher risk of parasuicide and suicide as well as depression and anxiety disorders. Authors also noted that rate of those who consumes alcohol in high dosage is higher among the unemployed population in comparison with the employed population. In addition, alcohol consumption often escalates after an individual loses the job (Wilson & Walker, 1993). Montgomery studied data of young unemployed men divided into two groups: first group was never employed and second group was once employed. He compared level of alcohol consumption in both groups. For conducting experiment, Montgomery has chosen lowest social class, and lower educational levels. The age of young men varied from 16 to 33 years. His research showed that those who have never been employed consumed alcohol less frequently and in smaller quantities than those who had experience of losing a job. Higher levels and quantities of alcohol consumption were essentially associated with recent unemployment (Montgomery et al., 1998).


The impact of alcohol and drug abuse in connection with unemployment, as well as vice versa, the impact of unemployment on drug or / and alcohol addiction was examined in the paper. The paper provided evidence about relationship between unemployment rate, business cycles and substance use. It also showed that economic cycles, particularly recession, have direct influence on the problem of increasing drug and alcohol misuse by population. This connection exists due to such social phenomenon as unemployment. Unemployment is often responsible for extra pressure that recently unemployed person is undergoing. Once the pressure is accumulated, it becomes unbearable for an unemployed person to deal with problems and he resorts to alcohol or drugs as a way of alleviating this pressure. Unemployment is also responsible for losing conventional socializing environment. Therefore, some people can substitute their safe habitual circle of daily communication with new one which often comprises people who experience same problems. Such community of losers can lead to unfavorable consequences for the unemployed individuals with inferiority feeling. Lack of discipline of a daily job and excess of free time are additional risk factors for an unemployed individual that could make him become drug user or alcohol consumer. Moreover, alcohol and drug consumption are also associated with usage of poor quality substances that could be extremely dangerous for health. The paper proved that unemployment is a major risk factor which provokes alcohol and drug misuse. The paper also proved that influence of socio-economic factors such as education (completing or dropping out of high school, intention to go and graduate the college), high pressure job, prestigious and highly skilled job, all these factors influence the risk of substance abuse.

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