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Why Teachers Fall Victim to Addiction

If you know an educator, you are probably familiar with the unfortunate fact that teachers are often paid far less than they deserve and typically work many hours outside of the scheduled school day. With ever-changing curriculum guidelines, pressures and criticism from parents, challenges with students and families, and other stressors, teachers may find themselves feeling overworked and underpaid. Teaching, despite the coveted “great schedule” and abundance of breaks, is considered to be a very stressful occupation.

For these reasons, among others, you can imagine that seeking substances to ease the stress teachers experience within and outside of the classroom is all too common. Addiction among educators may be more prevalent than you think, with many choosing to seek help during the summer break. While summer break can provide an excellent opportunity to sober up and seek treatment, it is important to consider that there are ways to seek help throughout the school year too. Sometimes, waiting until summer only prolongs a solution and worsens the problem.

Stressors of Teaching

Before discussing treatment options for teachers, let’s first review the reasons educators may develop a substance use disorder (SUD). While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, a few common reasons for substance use among educators can include low pay, long work hours and no overtime pay, high and often unrealistic expectations, and challenges with students or families.

Minimal or Insufficient Pay

Teachers continue to be one of the lowest-paid occupations along with others in public service such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, etc. Teacher salaries are often based on the area and the income range for that geographical location. Also taken into consideration is the budget for that county or region. Often, areas in need of the best and most qualified teachers pay the least. This can be even more discouraging and unmotivating for educators in high-need areas.

Long Hours

While a seven-hour school day may seem manageable, the truth is that a teacher’s responsibilities almost always stretch beyond that timeframe. Teachers take a lot of work home each day and fulfill many duties from home, such as grading papers, answering emails, and lesson planning. This can lead to burnout, frustration, and ultimately substance use.

Added Pressure

Teachers, more so now than ever, are held to a higher standard when it comes to the success of their students. It is no longer enough for a student to work hard and get good grades. Many school systems have adopted the practice of standardized testing, placing test scores at the highest value and basing teaching quality accordingly.

This is in addition to the pressure teachers put on themselves to ensure their students succeed. With classroom sizes larger than ever, it can be difficult to adapt to the needs of all students and cater to various learning styles. If students don’t succeed, educators may feel personally responsible, which can weigh heavily on their mental health.

Challenges with Students or Families

Those who are called to teach often have a passion for helping others. This means that if a student is struggling, the teacher is inclined to do everything they can to help. Teachers encounter students from all walks of life, coming from all different home situations. This can be difficult to cope with, motivating teachers to seek reprieve on the weekends or after a difficult day at work.

With all of these challenges that often accompany this field of work, educators can easily fall victim to substance abuse. It can begin as a coping mechanism on the weekends in an attempt to unwind after a difficult week. This can quickly evolve into a daily, after-work routine that eventually becomes a problem.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are treatment programs designed to offer programs and services that are suitable for working individuals. With outpatient programs, most can maintain their jobs and other obligations while meeting the criteria for treatment.

As with any treatment program, a full assessment would take place first to ensure outpatient therapy or treatment is appropriate for your level of addiction. If you are deemed a fit, you can take advantage of all that treatment has to offer while maintaining your role as a teacher. Learn more about the benefits of outpatient treatment here.

Outpatient programs often involve therapies, meetings, and other activities commonly accessed through residential treatment but lack around-the-clock supervision. This is a great option for those able to stay on track with less supervision. Staying connected and engaged in the treatment process while staying employed is possible with such a program.

Teaching is difficult. You may have ungrateful students and/or parents, harsh criticism from administrators, and unrealistic expectations set both by others and sometimes yourself. This combined with low pay and long hours can take a huge toll. For these reasons, among others, teachers can often fall victim to addiction. Seeking substances to cope with occupational stress is often common and can quickly evolve into a substance use problem. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer a variety of treatment programs suited to meet your specific needs. We begin with a full assessment at intake to determine your level of care needed and develop an individualized treatment plan for you and your situation. Some may qualify for outpatient treatment, which can allow individuals to maintain their jobs while receiving treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call Enlightened Solutions today at (833) 801-LIVE

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