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Mad Men in Real Life: How Common is Alcohol in the Workplace?

For those of you who have not seen the AMC period drama Mad Men, it is a television show that centers around the dog eat dog world of television advertising set in 1960’s New York City. Each week, viewers tune in and follow the life of Don Draper, who is a highly successful ad executive who struggles with alcoholism. A constant theme that runs through each episode is the prevalence of unbridled drinking in the workplace.

While many viewers may pass off the portrayal of alcohol use and alcoholism in the workplace as sensationalist and used to increase its’ audience, in reality the show is an example of art imitating real life. In reality, alcohol use and alcoholism in the workplace is a problem that plagues many people in many different occupations.

How Common is Alcohol Use in The Workplace?

alcohol in the work place

According to information provided by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD):

Out of millions who hold full time employment in the United States, close to fifteen million are heavy drinkers of alcohol, exacting a high cost on work organizations, as employees who drink a lot are often absent from work, suffer from a lot of health problems, and are at a greater risk of harming themselves and others.”

Drug and alcohol abuse cost employers nearly $81 billion annually and these losses can be attributed to absenteeism, injuries and increased accident rates, lost productivity and fatal accidents in the workplace. Additionally, alcohol and drug use in the workplace also costs employers valuable capitol because of theft, low worker morale, high turnover rates and increased costs of training new employees.

Additionally, the NCADD listed the following statistics regarding alcohol use in the workplace:

  • Workers with alcohol problems were 2.7 times more likely than workers without drinking problems to have injury-related absences.
  • A hospital emergency department study showed that 35 percent of patients with an occupational injury were at-risk drinkers.
  • Breathalyzer tests detected alcohol in 16% of emergency room patients injured at work.
  • Analyses of workplace fatalities showed that at least 11% of the victims had been drinking.
  • Large federal surveys show that 24% of workers report drinking during the workday least once in the past year.
  • One-fifth of workers and managers across a wide range of industries and company sizes report that a co-worker’s on- or off-the-job drinking jeopardized their own productivity and safety.

In What Occupations is Alcohol Use Most Common?

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can affect anyone and any given profession. However, there are certain occupations where alcohol use is most common in the workplace.


Alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the bartending industry is widespread. According to an article published in The Business Insider, bartenders are just over twice as likely to die from alcoholism than the national average. The reasons are clear…bartenders are surrounded by alcohol for long periods of time on a daily basis and it is a culture in which drinking (and binge drinking) is an accepted part of the culture.

Food Service Industry

Alcohol use in the food service industry can be commonplace, especially for those who work in chain restaurants, supper clubs, and restaurants. It is estimated that 15 percent of all food service workers engage in heavy drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks consumed in a single session or event). There are studies that suggest those with alcohol dependence issues may “self-select” into the bar or restaurant industry due to the availability of alcohol and the work culture that promote drinking. Work-related alcohol norms include perceptions of others’ approval of drinking or being hung over at work, and perceptions of the extent to which significant others engage in these behaviors.


It is estimated that construction workers and laborers are 1.72 times more likely to die from alcohol misuse and alcoholism when compared to other professions. Additionally, it is also estimated that construction laborers abuse alcohol and other drugs at twice the national average. However, an increasing number of construction companies are implementing drug-free workplace policies. Because of this, the rate of alcohol and drug use is expected to decrease.


Mining–and especially coal mining–is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. While the annual pay is good–between $80,000 to $100,00 yearly–injuries, health complications and accidents which lead to death are commonplace. Constantly experiencing these traumas in the workplace may lead people employed in the mining profession to drink more excessively in order to cope.

Is There Help For Those Who Struggle With Alcohol Use in The Workplace?

drunk at work

Are you struggling with alcohol dependence in the workplace?

Is your job performance suffering?  

Is a co-worker abusing alcohol? 

The consequences of alcohol use in the workplace are significant: lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, workplace injuries, and violence. Fortunately, there are ways those who are struggling with alcohol dependence can get the help they need. Many companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which provide a highly effective way to deal with this issue. These programs are in place to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their job performance, health, and well-being.  An EAP can help those struggling with alcohol abuse referrals to treatment, workplace substance abuse education programs and confidential screening among other services.

Many employers are adopting health and wellness programs that emphasize that alcohol and drug use is not condoned in the workplace. These programs help remove the stigma against seeking help and telling employees they can seek treatment confidentially without jeopardizing their jobs. By encouraging and supporting treatment, employers can dramatically assist in reducing the impact of alcohol use in the workplace, while reducing their costs.

Are You Struggling With Addiction?  Call Palm Beach Institute

Alcoholism affects all facets of your life, and without experienced and professional help you can lose everything that you worked so hard to achieve and maintain. Palm Beach Institute is one of the premier drug and alcohol rehab facilities in Florida, and for over 40 years we have helped thousands break the cycle of addiction and help them reclaim their lives. With effective drug treatment programs, medical detox services, family programs and top-quality aftercare programs, PBI provides a full continuum of care that addresses the mind, body, and spirit of each client.

Call PBI toll-free today at 855-534-3574 and learn how our treatment programs can give you the recovery you desire.

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