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Teachers and Addiction

Teaching can seem like a noble profession.

Educating and molding young minds, and seeing your students grow.

However, lofty dreams can run into turbulence.

Marching into the real world with newly honed skills and unbridled enthusiasm, but finding oneself overworked, underpaid and terribly stressed.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that educators find solace and relief in self-medicating.

High-Stress Levels

People often think that teachers don’t actually do much.

Glorified babysitter, is a common term used to describe teachers.

Gone are the days of idyllic classrooms and an apple for the teacher.

Violence, students with entitlement issues, substance abuse among students coupled with the ever-present reality of budget cuts.

The reality today is of helicopter parents and teachers hardly ever catch a break.

Students and their parents take no responsibility for the inappropriate behavior of the student and teachers are left to deal with issues themselves.

This, coupled with living under a microscope form administration, can lead to more than acceptable levels of job stress.

Sometimes, teachers are even expected to buy their own classroom supplies! Budget cuts lead to overcrowded classrooms creating more work for teachers without any compensation.

Add in overtime at the school and then more work at home means less time with their own families and little chance of work-life balance. Oftentimes, teachers have a hard time making ends meet! Many teachers end up moonlighting or working extra shifts on weekends or evenings, just to earn a bit more money.

The result is constant stress, exhaustion and, sometimes, depression. Many turn to prescription medications such as stimulants to make it through the week.

The stress and anxiety are not healthy mentally or physically and could ultimately lead to a breakdown.

Fatigue can lead to teachers making mistakes, causing accidents or missing work altogether. It has been reported that teachers, on average, take almost 30 days off every year to deal with their stress and anxiety.

The national average is around 12 days.

Alcohol and Drugs

While students and teachers are affected by the stress and strain of the changing classroom, teachers bear the brunt of it. Teachers also experience stress when their students are stressed.

This can be very taxing for them, as they are expected to be an educator, counsellor, babysitter, parent, guardian and any other role that their student may need.

Addiction and apathy sets in when teachers turn to prescription medications, drugs or alcohol in an effort to self-medicate. Some just give up. If no one seems to care what happens in the classroom, why should the teachers?

Self-medication can lead to abuse of medications and addiction. What starts off as a drink to take the edge off, can lead to drinking every day after work to cope.

Sometimes, it can lead to drinking on the job to cope! With the ready availability of potent drugs even in suburban settings, graduating to ever more potent drugs and slipping into addiction is not uncommon.

Getting Help

Nearly half of all teachers surveyed reported visiting a doctor due to stress from their jobs. A good portion of them have been prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Some have been referred to counselling.

Given that teachers are always in control, they often find it difficult to admit they have a problem. They increase their alcohol intake, take more medication and like to feel that they are in control.

Along with seeking treatment is a feeling of guilt, that they have somehow failed themselves, their students and their own families.

They are loath to take time off from work because they feel they have abandoned their students. There is also the fear that addiction will be a permanent stigma on their career and they may never find suitable work.

Dr Cidambi believes the best approach to treating teachers for addiction is to involve all parties – the employer, the teacher, and their support system. It helps to elevate support and makes treatment more effective.

If you have concerns about a family member who is a teacher, an employee or yourself, please don’t hesitate to contact us here with all your questions.






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