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The Brains Connection to Addiction Amongst Professionals

Leaders, professionals, and executives are human first and foremost. It is hard to think about them this way because they seem to achieve superhuman things like run companies, manage portfolios worth billions of dollars, and create empires that impact thousands of lives. Inside, though, they may be wrestling with demons nobody knows about. The ‘C-Suite’ crowd may have more sociopathic tendencies than the general population, some researchers believe. They may also be more likely to experience mental illness or substance abuse issues due to the way their brains are wired. Learn more about the neuroscience of executives and how it may lead them down the path of addiction. 

Traits of Good CEOs

There has been a lot of time analyzing the addiction, looking for why people become dependent on substances. Some of the traits they found for CEOs include risk-taking, a strong drive to succeed, novelty-seeking behavior for the next big thing, and others may put them at a greater risk for addiction because they enjoy ‘the chase.’ This behavior comes from the same brain pathway that makes substance use appealing to some people (initially) and may target that pathway to hijack their brain and keep them addicted. It is not that people at higher risk for addiction get more pleasure from substances, but the drive to get there is bigger because they enjoy the payoff. High achievers also get to that level because stress or trauma happened early on in life. It fuels that drive, drives addiction, and puts them at greater risk for dependency because they did not get some needs met as a child, so they are driven very hard to succeed. The pain with that is self-medicating with work, achievement, and possibly addiction (to work, substances, or polysubstance and addiction behavior).

Getting Help

Substance abuse in the C-suite is not uncommon, but there are a lot of people who are high functioning without giving any indication of their struggles. They are not checking themselves into rehab, they are people who stay largely out of it and continue to function on their own. Prescription medication addiction is rising in the C-suite. Their home life may be falling apart due to work, drugs, and they can still get the work done with help of assistants and employees, but they cannot continue hiding addiction at home. To treat addiction in the C-suite, the best option is to ask for help. The person cannot stop drinking or using drugs all of the sudden. Their brain and body cannot likely handle the stress of that. Detox is stepping down, tapering down, and giving the brain and body ample time to reset so the person can begin working on the underlying issues that lay hidden beneath the surface of addiction. The key is to build trust, listen to the person, and find a pathway to healing from addiction. Creating a work culture that is safe to be vulnerable and ask for help is always preferable as it allows space to get better and come back stronger than when they left. The whole idea is to give them room to uncover all the underlying issues, get help, and come back to work clean and sober. There will always be the risk of relapse, but with support groups and positive energy at work, it is possible to keep working in the C-suite and maintain sobriety.

The Guest House is based on a Therapeutic Communty model. We provide C-suite executives and professionals a safe space to be vulnerable, to work through addiction issues, and to find support for mental health. We have flexible program offerings to keep you working at your professional job, help with credentialing issues, and offer high-level support for your individual needs. Call us to find out more: 855-483-7800.