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Drinking Before Work

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Is it Normal to Drink Before Work?

Most people don’t consider it normal to drink before work. Drinking alcohol in the morning, especially if you work the first shift, can be a sign of alcohol abuse.

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Effects & Dangers of Drinking Alcohol Before Work

Drinking alcohol before work has various effects and poses dangers, such as:

  • Developing or already having a physical and/or psychological dependence on alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not consuming alcohol
  • Increases the likelihood of drinking throughout the day and ultimately having too much to drink
  • Higher risk of accidents, especially for those operating machinery or performing work that requires extreme focus and control
  • Increases the likelihood of liver disease, dementia, and other physical complications linked to drinking
  • High risk of developing alcohol use disorder, if it isn’t already present
  • Increases the risk of DUI and other dangers of inebriation 

People who consume an alcoholic drink before work often drink alone. Doing this indicates that they drink to alter their physical condition and not for social reasons.

Does Alcohol Make You Work Better?

Alcohol often doesn’t make people work better. It does not enhance work productivity.

It makes you less productive and causes struggles with fulfilling responsibilities. Drinking or being drunk on the job can also harm your reputation.

Some might argue that a drink helps them feel more relaxed and at ease if their job requires a lot of social interaction.

If your job requires socializing in settings where you usually drink, it’s essential to be clear with your employer whether or not this is acceptable.

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Can You Get Fired for Drinking on the Job?

Yes, you can get fired for drinking on the job. However, there are laws governing drinking habits and termination. These laws affect how an employer can respond to an employee with a drinking problem. 

Employers have the legal right to discipline workers for performance issues related or unrelated to drinking. 

For example, if someone is habitually late for work, they can be terminated. Lateness is the reason for termination. The cause of their lateness is not the issue⁠—be it because their alarm clock doesn’t work or because they were drinking.

Employers can terminate someone if their actions stem from drinking. However, it is illegal to fire someone for being an alcoholic.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), or alcoholism, is a disease. Employers cannot fire someone for having the condition of AUD any more than they can fire someone for having cancer, depression, or any other illness or disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects those with disabilities, including AUD. But it applies differently to alcohol addiction and illegal drug use.

Doctors generally consider alcoholism a disability because it is an impairment that affects the brain and neurological functions. 

Under the ADA, employers can require employees with addictions to meet the same performance and behavioral standards as other employees. However, they must also grant requests to take leave to enter a rehab program.

Despite this, employers can still fire employees for drinking on the job if it follows company policies. Employment laws protecting those with AUD do not protect you when you drink at work.

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Is Drinking in the Morning a Sign of Alcoholism?

In most cases, it can be a sign of alcoholism. Someone who regularly drinks in the morning, especially before their workday, has a problem with alcohol.

This is not the same as someone who chooses to have a bloody Mary or mimosa with brunch. Third-shift workers who end their workday early in the morning with a drink might not be alcoholics either.

If you are drinking in the morning to deal with stress, anxiety, or self-medicating, it’s a sign of alcoholism.

Many alcoholics wake up and begin drinking as soon as possible. People with alcoholism never stop thinking about where, when, and how they can drink.

In these cases, when someone is drinking or thinking about drinking first thing in the morning, it is likely a sign of alcoholism

What is Considered a “Normal Drinking Habit?”

“Normal” drinking varies from person to person.

The CDC states the following:

  • Moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.2
  • Heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week for men and drinks or more per week for women2

Any consumption of alcohol is abnormal for people who are: 

  • Under the age of 21
  • Pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • Planning to drive or operate machinery
  • Participating in activities that require alertness, coordination, or skill
  • Taking OTC or prescription medications that do not mix well with alcohol
  • Inflicted by certain medical conditions
  • Are in recovery from alcohol use or unable to control their consumption

Remember that what might be normal for one person isn’t the same for another. One drink is safe for some people, while others cannot consume that much. 

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Here are the different treatment options for alcohol abuse and addiction and what they provide:

  • Inpatient treatment: Round-the-clock support lets you focus entirely on recovery and sober living
  • Intensive outpatient care: Access to individual and group therapy for several hours each day without removing you from your everyday life
  • Outpatient treatment: Access to therapy approximately once a week
  • 12-step programs: Camaraderie and support in a group setting with other recovering alcoholics
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Pharmaceutical support for treating addiction.

Summary

Drinking alcohol in the morning before work isn't considered normal. This can be a sign of alcohol use disorder and should be treated accordingly. 

There are employment laws protecting people with disabilities, including alcoholism. However, these laws cannot prevent employers from disciplining employees if they drink on the job. A form of disciplinary action can include job termination.

If you suspect you or a loved one has a drinking problem, seek professional help. Several treatment options for alcohol abuse are available to help people overcome this condition.

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Updated on November 22, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. “The ADA, Addiction and Recovery.” ADA National Network. 
  2. “What Is Excessive Alcohol Use?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. “Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 2017.
  4. “Rethinking Drinking Homepage.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 2019. 
  5. Nowinski, J. “Drinking at Work: Not a Healthy Trend.” Harvard Health Blog, 2012.
  6. Rehm, J. "The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism." Alcohol Res Health, 2011.

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