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Books - The Working Addict
Written by David Caplovitz   

Until recently, drug addiction was seen as a phenomenon of the streets, far removed from the work place. It was widely assumed that the heroin addict was too unstable to hold a full-time job. But in the past seven years, a number of firms have discovered that just as they are not immune to alcoholism, so they are not free of a drug problem. In industry after industry, firms have found that some of their employees were using and abusing hard drugs.* To shed light on this overlap of the worlds of drugs and work, we have carried out a survey of addicts who held full-time jobs for an extensive period while they were addicted. This study thus deals with a deviant group within a deviant population --- for most addicts do not work full-time and, of course, most full-time workers are not addicts. How these working addicts were able to integrate their work lives with their drug habit, the various ways in which their drug habit impinged upon their job, their relationships with employers and co-workers, the ways in which their work roles influenced their drug habit, and the degree to which they participated in the drug culture, as well as the work culture, are the major themes covered by this report.

The Sample

This survey is based on face-to-face interviews with 555 addicts in treatment who held full-time jobs for at least three months while they were addicted. The sample was drawn from the clientele of a number of drug treatment programs in New York City, both methadone maintenance and drug-free programs. The specific programs represented in this survey and the number of interviews conducted with the clients of each is shown in Appendix A. The majority of the respondents came from methadone maintenance programs, for the simple reason that most of the addicts in treatment are affiliated with such programs. In all, some 71 per cent of the sample was recruited from methadone maintenance programs and 29 per cent were found in drug-free treatment programs.*

The Organization of the Report

Chapter 1 describes the kinds of people who make up the sample of working addicts. They are compared with the addict population of the city and the general population on a number of social characteristics. We will be able to see if working addicts differ from typical addicts and the ways in which they are similar to and different from the general population. Chapter 2 describes the drug habit of these working addicts, the kinds of drugs they used, the amount of money they spent on drugs, the extent of multiple drug use and the degree of their dependence on drugs during the working day. The third chapter deals with the work history of these addicts, the kinds of jobs they held, the industries in which they worked, their attitudes toward their jobs, and the amount of money they earned. Chapter 4 examines the interaction between their drug habit and their labor force participation. For example, were addicts who became addicted at an early age as likely to get a decent job as addicts who became addicted when older? Did those who earned more spend more money on their habit? Chapter 5 considers the various ways in which the drug habit intruded upon the addict's job and Chapter 6 deals with the social context of addiction at the work place. Was the employer aware of the addict's habit and, if so, what was his attitude? Did the addict's co-workers know of his habit and how did they feel about it? Were other co-workers addicted, and was there any traffic in drugs at the work place? In short, Chapter 6 deals with the extent to which a drug culture had intruded upon the work place. Chapter 7 deals with the extent to which these working addicts were involved in the traditional life style of addiction, criminal behavior and association with fellow addicts. Did they hide their habit from everyone but themselves and identify primarily with the world of work, or did they participate in the two worlds of addiction and work simultaneously? Finally, Chapter 8, the concluding chapter, summarizes the main findings of the research and discusses their implications for social policy.

*For a recent study documenting drug abuse in industry, see Louis Lieberman and David Caplovitz, The Drug Problems of Industry, Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, 1976.
*For the city as a whole, 77 per cent of addicts in treatment were in methadone maintenance programs and 23 per cent in drug-free programs. Our sample thus overrepresents, slightly, drug-free programs.


Our valuable member David Caplovitz has been with us since Saturday, 16 June 2012.

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