Drug abuse is an issue in food service

October 15, 2019


Most of us like going out to eat occasionally but what many don’t know is that the people making your food might be on drugs. 


Whether it’s a small fast food joint or an upscale five-star restaurant, the problem can be anywhere.


People who abuse drugs exist in all sort of industries but seem to proliferate in the service industry.


This may be due to the highly stressful and highly demanding nature of the job. 


This coupled with low wages, long hours and other responsibilities, can make it tempting for employees to resort to substance abuse.




This is something that needs to change, we live in a culture where the people in the service industry are often looked down upon. 


Many of these large companies hiring a big part of this nation’s workforce are taking advantage of them and leaving them to suffer.


An anonymous source only known as C, works at a popular upscale bistro and explains that roughly half of the people he works with use some form of drug. 


This bistro, while succesfull does not pay employees adequate wages for the work they do and refuses to offer any sort of benefits such as health insurance.

The issue with drug abuse in this industry grew interest from many after the tragic passing of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. 


While he seemingly made little effort to keep it a secret, not many people watching him on TV knew Bourdain had been dealing with addiction for a big part of his life.

Bourdain spent many of his early years as a self-proclaimed “druggy,” and eventually developed a severe addiction to heroin and crack. 


Even with rehab and his eventual success, the famous chef still struggled with depression and took his own life. 


Bourdain serves as an example of the long-term effects drug abuse and depression can have on a person’s life, even after finding success.

There haven’t been many studies on the issue, so some of this information has to be taken with a grain of salt. 

The most recent was published in 2015, showing that roughly 1 in 5 Americans in the accommodations and food services industry have admitted to using an illicit substance in the past month.


That is about twice the national average.


Another reason for this issue in the food industry may be its the low barrier for entry. 


Working in a kitchen is one of the few career options available for people with criminal backgrounds. 

It is not uncommon for professional chefs with culinary degrees to be working alongside felons.


This can sometimes make drugs easier to access.

Industries like these often enable the functioning addict.


This is when a person has an addiction but manages to live a relatively normal life. 

These people often have families to care for, bills to pay and dreams to follow.

Some are now beginning to believe that alcohol use may lead to the abuse of other substances such as cocaine. A study lead by Edmond A. 


Griffin, a psychiatrist from Columbia University Medical Center, found that a history of alcohol use could prime a person for drug addiction in the future.

This is concerning because the life of a kitchen worker can often be surrounded by alcohol. 


Besides working with it, late shifts often lead workers to bars or clubs for socializing, making drinking a big part of the culture.

“People mostly do cocaine in the kitchen to work faster. Some people don’t like the pressure, so they smoke weed,” said c.


While marijuana may be an issue to some, the fact that it is relatively harmless and even legal in some states makes cocaine the far bigger problem.

Cocaine works by flooding your brain with endorphins allowing a person to feel energized.


This makes it the drug of choice for workers that are trying to make it through rushes or late nights.

C went on to explain that many times some people first exposure to drugs of any kind happened at work.

“Had kids come in who never tried it. Could work good too, but all of a sudden someone will say ‘hey man, you might to better if you do this,’” said C.

A bigger can arise with workers that go beyond using marijuana or cocaine in the job and start using more dangerous drugs.

“There always that one person going the extreme and we’ve had one chef, I have no idea how he’s so good, but he did meth and heroin,” C said.

C explained he got along well with this chef and he really looked up to his talent, explaining that the man has even worked at upscale restaurants in Las Vegas.

“He’s so good but he was so dependent on drugs,” added C.

Like with many heavily addicted drug users, the chef has a hard time keeping up with his work and eventually lost his job at the local bistro.

A difficult question to ask is if this issue is so bad, what can be done to stop it?


Luckily there are currently resources available for people struggling with substance abuse in El Paso including Aliviane, a community-based non-profit that offers recovery services; and Emergence Health Network, a state-run program that focusses on mental health and substance abuse treatment.


These programs have been around for year and while they help, they are unfortunately not enough.

I believe change needs to happen to help employees improve their work life and have less reasons to turn to drugs. 

Higher wages and reasonable hours can really help but without changing the culture in the kitchen, issues will continue to happen.

Please reload

Featured Posts

Tejanas national champions

November 15, 2014

Please reload

Recent Posts

May 14, 2020

Please reload

Search By Tags