Are Architects Prone To Substance Abuse And Addiction?

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Architects have high potential for financial success, but the job doesn’t come without sacrifice. Long hours, ongoing criticism, and the need to please many interests can influence professionals under stress to seek escape through drugs or alcohol. Fortunately, there are treatment services available to help architects recover from addiction issues.

Risk Of Addiction In Architects

Architects design construction projects, renovations, interior design, and additions for residential homes, office buildings, and other structures. These professionals have the potential to earn six-figure salaries.

These salaries, however, come with hefty responsibilities. Architects work demanding jobs, and those with poor stress management skills may experience burnout and mental health issues.

To cope with these high demands, architects may turn to drugs and alcohol. Architects with substance use issues (7.9%) are more likely to abuse alcohol (8.3%).

Read more about careers with a high rate of addiction

Rate Of Addiction Among Architects

The rate of alcohol abuse among architects (8.3%) is higher than the general population (7.5%). The social acceptance of alcohol and drinking alcohol to celebrate deals may be contributing factors.

Smaller, boutique architectural firms don’t necessarily enforce drug and alcohol testing. Lax drug and alcohol policies open the door for alcohol abuse and dependence, and drug addiction.

Though the current figures are unknown, throughout history some professionals in the architecture field have experimented with illicit drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, LSD, or methamphetamine.

The exact figures in regard to architects and prescription drug abuse is also unknown. However, the use of prescription drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and other amphetamines is more prevalent among this demographic.

Type Of Drug Use Rate Of Addiction Trend
Alcohol Use 8.3% Consistent
Illicit Drug Use N/A Cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD are the most common
Prescription Drug Abuse N/A Adderall and Ritalin are the most common

Signs Of Addiction In Architects

If a person is abusing drugs or alcohol, there may be telltale physical and/or behavioral signs. The extent of these signs is typically dependent on a person’s extent of substance use.

Common signs of a substance use disorder (SUD) include:

  • bloodshot, glossy eyes
  • pupils that are oversized or pinhole-sized
  • tremors or shakiness
  • uncharacteristic mood changes, i.e., paranoia, anxiety, fear, giddiness, etc.
  • unusual hyperactivity or low energy
  • insomnia
  • increased isolation
  • sudden weight loss or gain
  • reduced concern for personal appearance and/or hygiene

In a professional capacity, there are also telltale signs of substance abuse that architects may exhibit.

Common signs of substance abuse among architects include:

  • reduced productivity
  • problems with memory recall
  • increased errors
  • morning sickness, lethargy, and/or appearing hungover
  • impulsive decision-making
  • missed deadlines and/or meetings
  • increased absenteeism
  • problems with colleagues

Possible Contributing Factors To Addiction In The Architecture Field

Architects work in an ever-changing field that requires them to be highly adaptive. There are nearly 250,000 architects who work in the U.S., with the majority of them concentrated in New York City.

In addition to planning and developing structures, many architects work on ways to improve public health by designing homes, buildings, and neighborhoods in ways that may enhance well-being.

The pressure to perform well can weigh heavily on an architect’s peace of mind. Some architects may use substances, and segue into addiction, as a way to cope with their responsibilities.

Workplace Stress

Architects are responsible for overseeing budgets, materials, timelines, and client expectations. To manage these simultaneously, architects must be in communication with many people.

To complete projects, architects must frequently touch base with laborers, engineers, and their own employer. Meeting demands contributes to the ever-changing nature of the job.

In addition to managing others’ expectations, some architects must manage multiple projects at once. Architects also tend to be perfectionists, which places additional pressure on their shoulders.

Dealing with stress, over time, can lead to more serious complications like mental illness.

The Social Acceptability Of Alcohol

Alcohol use is perceived as socially acceptable among many architects, as is the case in many industries. It’s commonplace for architects to close deals at bars, and also for business meetings to involve alcohol.

Because alcohol is perceived as acceptable, it can be easier for architects with alcohol abuse issues to conceal their drinking or dependency for longer.


Many architects have the potential to earn six-figure incomes from successful projects. Some of them, as previously stated, have multiple projects running simultaneously.

However, because architects can earn a lot of money from deals, those who are addicted to substances may also be better able to financially support their habits, and to do so discreetly.

The ability to afford drugs and alcohol, including the more expensive substances and liquor brands, can propel a person into a more serious cycle of addiction, and more quickly.


Despite the high potential for success, architects also face a great deal of rejection. Long hours spent on a project that’s ultimately rejected can be discouraging.

Architects are subject to criticism concerning their work. Over time, repeated criticism can lead to feeling unappreciated, unrecognized, and unfulfilled.

This experience can contribute to depression and burnout, which may contribute to substance abuse.

Risks Associated With Architects And Substance Abuse

Being impaired by drugs and/or alcohol while on the job can pose a hazard in any condition. However, for architects, it can particularly affect their reputation.

Being under the influence can affect a person’s capacity to think logically and impair their judgment. These effects can make it difficult to complete projects on time and without error.

Supporting Architects With Addiction Issues

Addiction can happen to anyone, and architects are no different. Fortunately, there are addiction recovery programs in place to support architects with substance use disorders.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA), a professional organization for architects in the U.S., has developed programs to support architects who are dealing with substance abuse.

Throughout the year, AIA regularly holds lectures and workshops to educate architects about addiction, addiction treatment, and also to provide supportive resources to architects in need.

Companies can also offer access to employee assistance programs (EAPs), which provide counseling, health and wellness, and even legal and financial services for employees in need of support.

Employers who provide their employees with health insurance can offer information about in-network providers that offer detox, inpatient, and outpatient treatment programs, and other addiction rehabilitation services.

Architects can also seek help through psychiatry, evidence-based therapy, or peer support. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous hold meetings daily and online, as well as in some recovery centers.

Get Help For Substance Abuse

Dealing with an addiction can be tough and discouraging, but you don’t have to face it alone.

If you or a loved one has a substance abuse issue, contact and get connected with a treatment facility today.


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