People in high-stress jobs are known to have increased rates of substance addiction and abuse. The job of a flight attendant happens to be one such occupation. Flight attendants face a variety of work-related stresses, and any of these can trigger addiction. The combination of all these ever-present stress factors makes the flight attendants candidates for addiction.
Factors that Contribute to Substance Use among Flight Attendants
One factor that leads to addiction among flight attendants is their constantly changing sleep schedules. Often required to adjust sleep times to fit flight schedules, many flight attendants rely on alcohol and prescription sedatives to sleep. A continuous disruption of the circadian rhythm can contribute to other health problems. In addition, sleep deprivation causes stress, which leads to alcohol and drug use.
The unpredictable and dangerous nature of the profession will lead to substance abuse among flight attendants. In a study conducted by a researcher with American Airlines, the significance of critical incidents was found to be challenging events that have the potential to cause much human distress. Critical incidents for flight attendants were reported as:
- Death in flight or on a layover
- Fire on board the plane
- Physical assault during a flight
- Severe turbulence
- Aircraft accident
- Emergency evacuation of the plane
- Medical emergency during flight
Flight attendants may not need to experience these critical events directly in order to be influenced and affected by them. Often times, reports of other flight attendants are enough to induce fear and anxiety related to the nature of the profession.
A third factor that contributes to flight attendant drug addiction is that they often visit many countries with widely divergent drug laws. While most drugs are controlled in the United States, they are often readily available in other countries. Flight attendants are also exempt from going through customs, which allows them to have drugs with them at all times. Even if she or he could not conceal drugs in personal belongings, a determined flight attendant would find a way to stow drugs on a plane.
Treating Addiction in Flight Attendants
Substance abuse and addiction in flight attendants, as with other high-stress jobs, may result from high-stress levels, burn out, or other mental health disorders. While treating the addiction is usually the task at hand, rehab centers also focus on treating the stress that causes the substance use to occur. Through drug and/or alcohol treatment, the flight attendant will learn to cope with stress using healthy choices instead of resorting to substance use. In addition, trained addiction counselors offer individual counseling to help these professionals deal with their problems.
Professional inpatient rehab is the most effective way to treat flight attendant addictions. Treatment methods include:
- Supervised medical detox to eliminate the substance from the body safely.
- Identifying and treating co-occurring mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
- Cognitive behavior therapy to reconstruct how patients process information and emotions.
- Examining the root causes of addictive behaviors.
- Individual counseling to determine triggers for the substance abuse.