alcohol abuse

4 Ways Alcohol Abuse Affects Work Performance

Published on December 30, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

We all know that drinking on the job is frowned upon, and in some cases, illegal.  Alcohol abuse during off hours, however, can also have a detrimental affect on work performance in several ways.  Some people with alcohol use disorder believe they can remain high functioning as long as they don’t mix work and drinking, but addiction has an insidious way of bleeding into every aspect of life, no matter how much someone attempts to compartmentalize their substance abuse.  Understanding the different ways in which alcohol abuse can harm a career can motivate those struggling with alcohol use disorder to seek treatment for addiction.


Many people use alcohol to induce drowsiness, but alcohol use causes fatigue that often doesn’t go away once you become sober.  Due to spikes in the stress hormone epinephrine, alcohol use before bed can lead to nighttime awakenings. Additionally, alcohol causes throat muscles to become overly relaxed which can lead to the worsening of sleep issues such as apnea.  For those that tend to binge drink, meaning three or more drinks for women and four or more drinks for men, excess alcohol consumption can lead to a disruption of the body’s natural sleep cycle. Typically, the human brain cycles between deep sleep and REM sleep during the course of a night.  REM sleep is necessary for the brain to rest and rejuvenate, and alcohol use can cause the brain to skip this essential phase entirely. This is why drinking at night can leave you feeling as if you had no sleep at all the next day, even after a full night of sleep. Fatigue on the job can lead to irritability, slow reaction time, and lack of focus, generally making work seem much harder and ultimately reflecting in your performance.

Poor Concentration

Alcohol is damaging to every part of the body, including the brain.  Alcohol use can begin to create noticeable signs of cognitive impairment after years of extended use or bouts of binge drinking.  Drinkers who experience blackouts are drinking to the point that their brains are functioning at such a low level they are no longer able to record memories.  The day after a blackout, the brain is still recovering from damage, and it can be difficult to form organized thoughts or process new information. Additionally, alcohol abuse often leads to addiction, and addiction alone can entirely reframe your thought processes, reprioritizing information in the brain.  A person with an alcohol use disorder will become preoccupied with when and where they are going to have their next drink, and may have a problem focusing on important tasks that should take first priority.  

Problems with Mood

Common social conventions tell us that alcohol is a great way to take the edge off and relax after a long day.  Unfortunately, alcohol actually leads to irritability, anxiety, and depression. Alcohol may create temporary relief for those struggling with stress or mood disorders, but after achieving a short-lived high, the brain responds with a reciprocating low.  Using alcohol at night can lead to mood symptoms the next day. At work, you may find yourself having a particularly short fuse with coworkers, having a hard time feeling motivated or passionate about your job, and feeling extra nervous or anxious during high-stress situations.  Having a positive attitude and a friendly rapport with colleagues is important in any job, but unfortunately alcohol use can lead to chronic mood issues that make daily social interaction tedious and exhausting.


For most people with an alcohol addiction, the condition will progress to a point beyond their capacity to control.  As already discussed, substance use disorders can affect your priorities and change the way you interact with friends, family, and coworkers.  Unfortunately, as dependency grows, so does tolerance, which often leads to drastic increases in consumption. Even if you are able to confine your alcohol use to off hours now, a growing addiction means that you may not be able to do the same in the future.  Many problem drinkers begin drinking in the morning to manage their hangover symptoms, and eventually begin drinking throughout the day just to feel normal. Drinking on the job is not only irresponsible, but in some professions, alcohol impairment can mean life or death, as well as criminal charges.  People who work in emergency services are held to a higher standard overall, and alcohol use during work hours may end in termination, legal trouble, or tragedy. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of addiction should seek help from an addiction treatment program as soon as possible to gain freedom from substance abuse. 

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.