How 21 People Use Drugs at Work

Published On 06/24/2016 Published On 06/24/2016
illustration using drugs at work
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

I've never enjoyed being high on the job, and I'm not writing that just because I don't want to get fired. It's like one of the sources for this piece said: "Why waste a good time on work?"

However, according to a recent report, plenty of people use amphetamines and other drugs in an effort to boost their performance -- ADHD drugs alone are a $13 billion industry. That's a lot of high people in the workforce, which means there's a good chance that at least some of the people you interact with on a daily basis are in chemically altered states. So what does their drug use look like in practice? Here's what just a few of them had to say (some of the names changed or withheld, for obvious reasons).

Sometimes, drugs make "service with a smile" possible

"Marijuana helps me stay mellow when dealing with entirely stupid users." -- Jeremy, IT administrator

"I drink and occasionally smoke pot at work to relieve the stress of dealing with a physically demanding job and asshole customers. The staff also typically watches new movies the night before release, so it's an excuse to party." -- Johnny, movie theater manager/projectionist

"I never drank or used any kind of drugs at work until I had danced for eight years already. Personal stress induced the drinking, which came before the drugs. Two years after the drinking, I tried molly, coke, and Adderall at my job... I actually prefer Adderall more than anything else because it helped me feel full of nonstop energy and want to get things done. [Now] I've become used to drinking and working, so I've kind of conditioned myself to automatically want to drink when I step through the door of a strip club. But also, since I've been doing this for a while, I just don't have the temper, patience, or any remote desire to talk to these people. I don't care about them or their children, their lives, their wives... I just want their money. I've got one more year till I graduate college, and then I'll be out of this line of work that drives me to drink." -- Tati, stripper

Tedious jobs are more bearable when you're high

"I've had drinks on my lunch break. It helped me feel like my terrible, dead-end job wasn't so terrible, and also made me happier to be interacting with people at work, even though I didn't like them." -- Todd, durable medical equipment technician

"I use painkillers and Adderall because of the monotony of working in the French Quarter, around the worst people and attitudes our society has to offer. I've found that if I augment my perception through drugs, it makes it easier to go back the next day." -- Lena, bartender

"When I worked for a major airline in reservations in the late '70s and '80s, I smoked pot almost daily, before or on my way to work. Quaaludes were offered, regularly -- we called them quackers. Why, you ask? Why not? It was a very boring, monotonous job." -- Linda, airline reservationist

Chemicals can "jump-start" the workday

"Adderall helps me knock out all my work in half the time, plus I have fun while doing it. Everyone these days is getting diagnosed as ADD or ADHD -- you just have to go to the right doctor. So do I feel bad about buying a few pills off my friends? Absolutely not -- especially because I probably wouldn't be as good at my job without it." -- Courtney, marketing specialist

"Nobody wants to be on too much speed at work."

"I've taken various forms of speed, coke, prescription painkillers, and I accidentally took a Xanax once and fell asleep in the stockroom. In my line of work, a little jump-start can make all the difference, so speed, meth, stuff like that can be very helpful. But there is a cliff, and the fall is steep. Nobody wants to be on too much speed at work. Painkillers are on that same ethos. Take one. Don't take three, or you'll end up an obvious, drooling mess on the line." -- Caleb, chef

"I've used mostly meth and cocaine at work. I never used these drugs to party at work, because, well, why waste a good time on work? I generally used small amounts of substances after a bender or a long drunken night, just to stay awake throughout the shift. They always enhanced my performance that was previously hindered by poor decisions the night before." -- Kristi, bartender

For some people, drugs can induce a meditative mental state

"Microdosing magic mushrooms is great -- focus, clarity, calm, and many beautiful synchronicities. ‘Micro’ as in a very small dose. I don't microdose daily, just here and there. It's not a quick fix. The key is a daily practice of meditation, mindfulness, exercise, constant self-growth, and mental training." -- Jason, business owner

"Not everyone considers Coursera and nitrous oxide a good Friday night, but I do."

"I smoke marijuana throughout the day to overcome the stresses of the job. Marijuana is legal in my state, and using it while working helps me be more creative, calm, cool, and collected in a fast-paced and stressful industry." -- Reina, publicist

"When I'm gearing up for an important work session, I start brewing a cup of coffee, take a puff from my bowl, put my headphones on, turn on Spotify, and everything but work fades away. The trick is not to overdo it. I only take one hit at a time, and I start the day with my vape (a lighter experience) and move to my pipe in the afternoon." -- Alex, software developer

"I habitually use all kinds of chemicals to change my state: coffee, weed, alcohol, whippits, mental health-prescribed stuffs. And I spend hours at home studying/learning/researching/working using any combination of these. Not everyone considers Coursera and nitrous oxide a good Friday night, but I do." -- Jessica, software engineer

For others, drugs help them deal with exhaustion and the toll physical labor takes on their bodies

"Just about everyone at all the clubs I have worked at uses drugs. We regularly work 14 or more hours on the weekends and during events. Most of our door staff sticks to pot. Our manager hands out Adderall like Skittles. I personally use pain pills often. Not every shift or every day, but if I'm working a lot back-to-back, it helps me manage otherwise unbearable leg and back cramps and spasms. I'm a single mother. I cannot afford to burn out." -- J, bartender

"I used to abuse Mini Thins when I worked as a fine-dining server. I was a full-time student working a full-time job, so it was the only way I could get through my shifts without feeling completely exhausted." -- Lynn, writer

"Adderall enhances my ability to stay awake when working late shifts and maintain the perkiness required for my position, as well as the focus to spot fake IDs, suspicious patrons, or handle large crowds at the door. Sometimes it hinders me, because I notice I'll become more agitated than usual." -- Meow, door hostess

Chemical dependence remains a very real threat

"I used opiates -- both painkillers and injected heroin -- as a means of coping with anxiety and depression. At first, it helped because I was able to act friendlier, more helpful, and nicer toward the general public. As my addiction progressed, it hindered my performance as I dealt with the effects of withdrawal and stress of getting my next fix. (Am happy to say I am currently almost one year off drugs and alcohol.)" -- Anon, service industry

"I have surprisingly few work drug stories, apart from drinking four Monster energy drinks a day and having to take sleep aids at night. And when I quit, I got really depressed." -- Michael F., chemist

"I was hooked on [cocaine], and at the time, it was the only way I knew how to get through a night at that bar. I don't think it enhances anybody's performance, but at the time, I sure thought so." -- Moe, bartender

But in some jobs, drug use comes with the territory

"I've smoked marijuana and drank coffee and alcohol at work. Being high or drunk at work is not frowned on in the music industry. Under most circumstances, it's acceptable and occasionally encouraged, as long as you can still perform the job you're expected to do." -- Xander, sound engineer

"As a laborer, I cut grass. Any time I do physical labor, I like to be high... smoking makes it all copacetic. When I tended bar, I was like, fuck it: weed, painkillers, ecstasy. Customers loved me and I had a lot of fun. I made a lot of tips. But I know my drawer had to be fucked up at the end of the night. Then, teaching: I teach high. It chills me out in front of a crowd, eases the anxiety and tension that comes from being on public display. As long as I don't forget my eyedrops. Then I get paranoid. I guess I get a little spacey and forgetful at times, but I play up the absent-minded professor angle. It was never really the drugs I did at work that hindered me, though. It was all the drugs I did outside of work." -- Judah, bartender/laborer/professor

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Missy Wilkinson was not even remotely high when she wrote this. Follow her on Twitter at @missy_wilkinson.



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