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Addiction Among Teachers k-12

Profile of Addiction Teachers (K-12)

Teachers are often called upon to intervene when the students they work with seem blunted or impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. They’re taught to smell a child’s breath or look for reddened eyes or sweaty skin. When they see those signs, they’re told to speak up and push the child to get help that can bring the budding addiction to an end. But what happens when the teacher is the one with the addiction?

Unfortunately, that’s an issue that crops up in many classrooms. The pressures of a demanding job, paired with the private nature of mental illness, can push some teachers into difficult situations. When this happens, they might need the help of a professional in order to get the help they need.

Addiction and Teachers

It’s difficult to know how many teachers dip into drug use. Privacy laws can help them to keep their use hidden and secret, so the communities they live in might never become aware of the issue. As many news articles have pointed out, teachers and their unions often complain when communities attempt to enforce random drug testing protocols. The results of those tests could make the problem clear, but since they’re not provided on a national level, it’s difficult to really understand how many teachers are impacted.

teacher happinessEven so, it’s easy enough to understand why a teacher might be tempted to at least try drugs. After all, the jobs of teachers are both difficult and demanding.

In a study produced by MetLife, a full 56 percent of teachers were very satisfied with their careers. Even so, 27 percent of teachers admitted that they planned to leave teaching within five years. That means they like their jobs now, but they might be just as willing to leave them, should something better come along.

Low happiness levels like this suggest that there are some teachers who are heading to a school, day after day, that they don’t respect, and they’re working in an environment that they don’t enjoy. That’s a difficult prospect for any professional, and it could lead some teachers to seek out new work.

A separate study from the Center for American Progress suggests that many teachers stay in their jobs for years, even if they’re working in high-poverty schools. These are positions that are demanding and challenging, yet teachers stay.

just one drink

At the end of a challenging day, it would be easy enough for a teacher to take a sip of alcohol.

They could simply pop into a bar and buy a drink they’d like, or they can purchase alcohol to drink in the privacy of the home. One drink to soothe stress could quickly become two drinks, three drinks, or even daily drinking.

Teachers may also choose to take in illicit drugs, and sometimes, they can get those substances at the schools where they work. The National Center for Education Statistics suggests that 23 percent of students surveyed in 2009 were offered drugs at school. Teachers may not get as many offers as students, of course, as they may be seen as authority figures who can’t be trusted with a score. But studies like this suggest that it would be easy enough for teachers to abuse drugs, should they want to do so, and they could get these drugs at school.

So in a world in which intoxication is easy and work is hard, what should a teacher do? The answer lies in getting help. There are a number of reputable solutions for addiction that teachers can take advantage of, and those who do so could find that they recover in ways they just never thought possible.

This list of resources can help. First, we’ll provide you with general information about addiction and addiction care. Then, we’ll delve into the data you need to handle your addiction as a teacher. We hope you’ll use this data to find and receive the help you, and your students, need.

General Resources

American Psychiatric Association – Formal definition of addiction:

It’s difficult to know if an addiction is in play if a person doesn’t know what an addiction really is. This formal definition can help. It comes from the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – What is drug treatment?

In this NIDA brochure, researchers describe the attributes of an effective addiction treatment program and the therapies that are often provided in a program that’s designed to help people with substance abuse issues. It’s a good starter manual for people who know very little about how treatment works.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – Information for families:

Teachers aren’t the only ones who need help with an addiction issue. Their families might also have questions about how treatment works and what programs are designed to do. This brochure can help answer their questions and set their minds at ease.

SAMHSA – Local treatment facilities:

Some people with addictions don’t get the help they need because they believe that there are no facilities nearby that can provide them with specialized assistance. This tool can help. Teachers can use this map to help identify treatment facilities in the states they live, or they can use the tool to explore treatment options available in other communities, should they want to travel for care.

American Society of Addiction Medicine – Addiction specialist definition:

Addiction treatment facilities might use a team approach to help a teacher, so there may be many different professionals involved in the care of a teacher. This page may help to illuminate what the leader of that team does and how that person is educated.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – Introduction:

Support group meetings are often portrayed on sitcoms and in movies, so teachers might be at least a little familiar with what a meeting looks like and what it’s designed to do. This brochure goes a little further, providing data on how the AA movement got started and why people keep going to meetings today.

AA – Meeting finder:

The best way to experience the power of AA is to attend a meeting. This tool provides contact information for local AA offices, which interested teachers can get in touch with in order to find local meetings.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – Meeting finder:

As AA meetings are designed for people with alcohol problems, NA meetings are designed for people with narcotics problems. With this tool, teachers can find out about local NA offices, and they can use that data to find local meetings.

Teacher Tools

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards – Mission statement:

It’s sometimes difficult for teachers to really assess how serious their addictions are. If they’re not impaired in the classroom, they might reason, what’s the harm? Reading through this mission statement may help to clarify things. Here, teachers can find out more about what they’re really expected to do and be. If they can’t handle these tasks because of an addiction, they need to get help.

American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence – Release form:

There are a number of different hoops teachers must jump through in order to either get a teaching license or to renew that license for another year. This is just one form a teacher might encounter. The language in this form should give teachers pause, because it highlights how background checks are a part of the process.

U.S. Department of Education – List of state education departments:

Teachers with known addiction issues (e.g., arrests and/or convictions due to drug use) may come under scrutiny by the education board of the state. This page provides a list of all state education boards, so teachers will know just whom to contact in case they come under legal fire due to their drug-use habits.

American Federation of Teachers – Legal services:

Since addictions in teachers often come to light due to some sort of arrest or legal action, teachers with addictions often need the help of a legal team. This page outlines how members of the AFT can get help through their membership.

Association of American Educators – State chapters:

There are a number of different unions that could help a teacher under fire for an addiction. This is just one of those unions, and this page provides information on local chapters of that union.

National Education Association – State chapters:

This is yet another teacher’s union that might help, should a teacher come under fire for addiction. This page provides information on local offices teachers could visit for face-to-face assistance.

Help Is Available

A teacher scanning this list might quickly see that there are no specific treatment facilities made just for teachers. Nor do there seem to be national organizations that provide ongoing monitoring of teachers who have dealt with addiction problems. That doesn’t mean that teachers with addictions are left all alone to deal with their issues and concerns. There are a number of treatment programs out there that can help. Any of the resources listed here could point a teacher to recovery.

It’s vital for you to speak up and speak out now, before you are arrested and convicted for your drug use. By intervening now, you could head off some of the very serious consequences that could come your way due to addiction. You can get better – and it can start now.


We hope you will take action against your addiction. Your students need you.


Addiction by Profession