Futures Recovery

Anthony Bourdain, The Restaurant Industry, & Addiction


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The recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain brings to light a dark and dangerous side of the restaurant industry. Futures COO, Deja Gilbert, shared her thoughts recently – the need for more awareness about addiction in this industry.

Restaurant & Hospitality Industry Addiction Statistics

The accommodations and food services industry has the highest rates of illicit drug use of any industry in the US (19.1 percent), and workers have the highest rates of substance use disorder (16.9 percent).

It’s easy to understand why this is the case, and the reasons are several-fold. First, the restaurant industry has one of the lowest barriers of entry – no degree, no problem. A history of drug use? You’re very likely to get a job.

And unlike other industries, where there is a standard of drug and alcohol-free workplaces, restaurant and hospitality workers are around it every shift. In addition, hours are late and often long, with many suffering from insomnia on their off hours. The stress of a busy kitchen, lack of sleep and readiness of drugs and alcohol can often lead to substance abuse or fuel an addiction.

Lack of Insurance Coverage for Addiction Treatment

To exacerbate the situation, many don’t have insurance to cover treatment, and the fear of losing work in a sometimes cutthroat industry with very high turn-over is real. This can result in those most in need, continuing use of drugs and alcohol, and to stay in an environment that fosters the abuse.

Steps to help Industry Workers

The loss of Bourdain is tragic. He himself knew the difficulties of the industry and the potential harm it can cause, especially to those individuals who need help the most.

There are some actions that can be taken immediately, to help those in the restaurant industry cope with mental illness, stress, and substance abuse:

  • Consider ending the ubiquitous ‘shift drink’ that often leads to another and another.
  • Establish no drinking policies before, during or after shifts
  • Invest in alcohol-awareness training for employees so that they can better understand the risks of the workplace and know where to turn for help.

These measures can help curb the tide of substance abuse in the industry. But for those who are already suffering, long-term, residential care is necessary.

Though Bourdain, who suffered for years with depression, had the resources to get help, many in his sphere do not or don’t think that it is within their reach. It is important that we educate and inform this vulnerable population with all the options for treatment and care available to them.

Read Deja Gilbert’s reaction here.


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