Our Take

Musings on the Foodservice Industry

Substance Abuse in the Food Industry

Apr 03 2019

Substance abuse is a prominent issue in the food industry. According to an article at Upserve.com, the highest rates of past month illicit drug use were found in the accommodations and food services industry at 19.1 percent. The reason for substance abuse in the foodservice industry is largely due to the high levels of stress. You have to deal with different personalities and high expectations every day from customers and co-workers, who often introduce other workers to drugs while at work. Over time, they become addicted, which affects their work performance and can lead to the termination of their employment.

Food Industry Struggles

Chef Brandon Baltzley dealt with substance abuse throughout his adult life. The fast-paced nature of the food industry caused him to abuse alcohol and drugs. Baltzley did well as a chef, but sometimes he lost viable career opportunities because of his drug addiction. An article from 2011 published in the Chicago Tribune helped land him a book deal where he discussed substance abuse within the food industry even while struggling internally with his own demons.

Since the food industry is so fast-paced and causes tremendous stress, foodservice professionals have the potential to turn to drugs to help deal with their issues. Once the effect of the drug wears off, they will consume more of it. If the individual goes without the drug for too long, it can cause them to suffer withdrawals, and in more extreme cases, to harm others or commit suicide.

Baltzley stated that his substances of choice were crack, cocaine, and alcohol. He used these substances to hide unresolved childhood issues and emotional trauma. This abuse continued in the shadows as his career took off. He would stop using drugs for months at a time, but then relapse and go back to using them again. He also noted that the reason that workers in the industry have substance abuse issues is the desire to please their co-workers, customers, and supervisors.

Solutions to the Problem

Managers can do their part in preventing foodservice workers from abusing drugs. One way is to have mandatory monthly drug tests. If an employee is caught with drugs in their system, they should be fired without a warning. This will allow managers to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for drugs. Another method that managers can use to help their employees is setting aside small periods of free time to give employees the opportunity to discuss their issues. Managers can bring a mental health counselor to their business location and provide their employees with the time to talk to a qualified professional individually or in a group setting.

Many individuals in the food industry are beginning to understand the depths of substance abuse that occurs and recognizing that it is an issue that must be addressed. It is a competitive industry which makes it difficult to find and keep good talent. In order to keep productive workers, employers are beginning to offer substance abuse treatment and more appealing shift hours. The food industry is known for long shift hours and low wages, which only increases stress. This is especially true if a given employee is the only one in their household earning a paycheck. Some workers may not want to seek treatment for their substance abuse problem, especially if they are in denial. Managers must attempt to talk to their employees and provide them with the proper resources to solve their abuse.

Food industry workers can go to rehab centers to get the treatment they need to avoid allowing substance abuse to hinder their careers. Trained medical professionals will get to the root cause of the substance abuse by reviewing the patient’s drug history and emotional trauma. They will also provide methods on how to avoid temptations at work. At one rehab location in Dana Point, California, individuals will be able to enjoy ocean views, daily activities, and the ability to cook their own meals. Patients will learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits as part of their recovery process. Upon leaving the facility, the patient can take their new perspective and work towards being a more effective employee, but more importantly, a healthier all-around individual.