A Better Today

Teachers and
Substance Abuse

Teachers are People Too: Substance Abuse in the Education Field

Now, more than ever, teachers need to be appreciated for their dedication. Teachers are the foundation for students’ development towards becoming successful, educated adults. That is a great burden to take on, and many teachers who enjoy their jobs nevertheless find themselves stressed.

There are also many teachers who dislike their jobs, for reasons such as low pay or long hours. According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2011, teachers worked more than 52 hours a week. These hours were spent on instruction lesson prep, tutoring, and grading school work. To make matter worse, 65% of teachers say that public school teachers’ salaries are NOT fair for the work they do and the effort they put into educating the next generation.

Teachers, like any person, have a greater potential to adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol when stressed or unhappy. Alcoholism begins with the bad habit of having a couple of beers to unwind after a long and stressful day. When that becomes the only means of distressing for teachers because that is the only time you have, they put their health and career in danger.

Understanding the factors which cause teachers to be stressed, and the resources available to help them be happy and healthy, are important to their continued success in molding the minds of students.

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Even the communities best and brightest can develop an addiction. Our networks want to help teachers get back to their classrooms and inspire the next generation.

Fair Pay Problems in Education: Working Hard for Little Pay

Typically, teachers don’t make a lot of money; in fact, they are often among the lowest paid professional careers. Living paycheck to paycheck can be incredibly stressful and cause a teacher to grow dissatisfied with their job.

This can be even more frustrating when teachers are expected to provide materials for their classroom out of pocket. Other teachers may dislike the school or school district they work in, either because of coworkers or policies they disagree with.

Long hours can also be a stressful factor for teachers; after spending all day at work, most teachers end up spending a considerable portion of their at-home time creating course outlines, drafting and grading assignments, and responding to students, parents and faculty questions.

As you can imagine, this leaves little time for family and the activities the teachers enjoy, which can further lead to feelings of resentment and dissatisfaction towards their jobs.

What are Teachers Really Worth: Qualifications Vs Career Salary

As a society, we place a high importance on the impact our teachers have in the development of our students, and hold the profession in high esteem. It seems strange, then, that teachers are paid so little for their highly-valued efforts. Not to mention the effort they put into becoming a teacher.

Educators are required to have a bachelor’s degree in order to take a teaching position; some districts even require a master’s degree. Which means as teachers start their first job, they’ve spent years to obtain their degree, and likely a few thousand dollars on student loans. That’s a lot of time and money for a job which takes up most of their time and pays little money. In twenty-nine states, teachers earn at least $1,000 less annually than similar professionals.

A big part of the teacher pay problem is salaries for educators haven’t kept pace with inflation. Since the economy began to recover from the recession in 2010, the annual salary of teachers has gone down while prices for most resources and commodities have risen.

In some states the difference between 2010 salaries and what teachers made in 2016 was nearly $10,000 annually. This was a major catalyst for the advent of the Red for Ed movement, which seeks to improve teacher pay and benefits nationwide.

It is Easy to Turn to Alcohol or Drugs When Your Job Doesn’t Leave You with Room For Anything Else

It’s also worth noting that other professions of similar difficulty require similar levels of education but tend to make more money.

Bad Coping Habits & Self-medicating Can Get Out of Control

The stress of long hours and low pay can affect teachers’ attitudes and deteriorate their mental health. This may cause them to seek ways of relieving stress or escaping from anxiety. Like many people, teachers in such a situation are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, factors such as stress, economic status and quality of life often play a significant role in whether an individual turns to drug abuse, and whether they ultimately seek treatment.

While substance abuse is a serious concern when any person chooses these behaviors, the impact on teachers is especially troubling. Alcohol and drug abuse has an increasingly negative impact on their ability to function normally and maintain their day-to-day livelihood, depending on the length and degree of abuse.

For teachers who need to accomplish a great deal of work in order to do their jobs, the decreased ability to function can begin to overwhelm their efficiency. Educators struggling to balance work with their personal lives are in danger of relying more and more on their coping methods as increased usage further deteriorates their mental state and quality of life.

This can result in their personal life being consumed by drugs and alcohol, neglect of their family, and abandonment of the activities they used to enjoy. It also impacts their ability to teach efficiently, or portray negative role-model behaviors to impressionable young students.

How Common is it for Teachers to Do Drugs and Binge Drink?

  • Over 90% of adults who abuse alcohol report binge drinking in the past month.
  • Binge drinking is greater among higher educational levels.
  • Prevalence of depression in the education industry is around 10%.
  • Education professionals may use substances as mood enhancers.
  • 9.5% of full-time workers ages 18 to 64 have substance use disorder.
  • In 2012, 5.5% of education professionals were living with addiction.
  • 4.8% of education professionals engaged in illicit drug use in the past month.
  • 4.7% of education professionals heavily drank alcohol in the past month.

FMLA and Teachers: Self-care When They Need it the Most

When the stress of a job becomes so great as to cause mental health concerns, it’s time to take a break. Many teachers feel like this isn’t an option for them in the midst of a school term, but they do have options.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles employees to take unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons without fear of losing their jobs. The FMLA provides employees with twelve workweeks of leave within a one year period for serious health conditions which make the employee unable to perform the functions of their job.

This includes drug or alcohol abuse which prevents an educator from being able to effectively teach. Employees seeking FMLA assistance can rest assured knowing that all requests are required to be kept confidential by their employer.

What is Intermittent FMLA?

Instead of leaving for the full 12 months, intermittent FMLA is an option for employees who want to use FMLA leave in a more flexible way. For example, FMLA is often used for surgeries or medical procedures that require a length of consecutive leave time. Intermittent FMLA leave involves using days or hours, broken down into increments over the year. So, if you were doing physical therapy or outpatient services and it required you to take off of work 3 hours early to make these appointments or session, Intermittent FMLA would be what you would utilize.

Intermittent FMLA can also be used to care for a family member with a serious illness or receive treatments over time. When an employee who suffers from a condition or illness that causes “flare-ups” or periods of time where they cannot work is another incident where intermittent FMLA is utilized.


Intensive Outpatient Services for Teachers

Whether a teacher chooses to take advantage of FMLA options or not, they can still seek treatment without the need to enter an inpatient rehab program. Intensive outpatient programs allow an individual seeking treatment to do it while living at home, and often with minimal impact on their jobs if they choose to continue to work and seek treatment concurrently.

Our network offers intensive outpatient services designed to help those abusing drugs and alcohol learn healthier coping mechanisms. Their approach to treatment centers around educating users about addiction as a disease and creating a strong support network. Patients travel to a facility two or three times a week to learn about topics such as relapse triggers, unhealthy relationships and environments, relapse prevention techniques, and management of stress.

Addicts can have confidential, 24/7 access to a professional who will personally work with you over the phone to give treatment options and provide assistance. Once enrolled, we will get the user in touch with fellowships and sponsors, group therapy sessions, social events connecting other recovering users, and contacts for support when needed. There are programs to specifically address the needs and concerns of alcohol abuse and drug abuse.

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Reliable Sources Matter to ABTRS

We believe it is important to use reputable sources when communicating with our patients, their families, and potential clientele. Therefore, we have built all our information, statistics, treatment modalities, and practices on reliable resources that are supported by data, scientific methodology, and testing. A strong foundation for recovery should be built upon the knowledge that is impartial, not funded by organizations that could benefit from certain outcomes, and proven or tested to be effective for substance abuse treatment and aftercare. Below are the sources used to construct the content on our website and any and all written material from ABTRS. We will continue to try to provide our patients and their families with reputable sources that are up to date and relevant.

Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder, by Industry. The CBHSQ Report: April 16, 2015. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1959/ShortReport-1959.html

CDC – Fact Sheets-Binge Drinking – Alcohol. (2018, October 24). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

MetLife Survey of American Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/contributions/foundation/american-teacher/MetLife-Teacher-Survey-2011.pdf

National Center for Education Statistics 2011-12 Schools and Staffing Survey

Prevalence rates for depression by industry: a claims database analysis., 2014. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4557731/

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