Which Jobs Have the Highest Rates of Substance Abuse?

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Based on data recently released from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), we can now say which jobs are most likely to cause people to need a drink or even to abuse drugs. We all know that work can be a major source of stress in our lives, but some jobs are more stressful than others and drinking or drug use are coping mechanisms used by some workers. It may not all come down to stress, though. Exactly which factors lead to more drinking and drug use are not fully known.

How Drinking and Drug Use Affects Work

SAMHSA collects this kind of information about drinking and drug use related to jobs because these activities negatively impact American industry. When workers drink or use drugs, we lose productivity, experience more workplace accidents, lose time due to illness and suffer from low morale. Companies lose billions of dollars every year because of substance abuse.

Almost 9 percent of adults working full time drank heavily in the month prior to being surveyed, and the same percentage abused drugs at least once in the last month. Nearly 10 percent of employed adults had abused alcohol or drugs in the past year or were considered to be addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Which Jobs Cause the Most Alcohol Abuse?

The SAMHSA survey broke the numbers down by different industries and found that drinking and drug use varied by type of job. The biggest numbers for heavy drinking the past month were seen in mining and construction. Nearly 18 percent of miners are drinking heavily, while close to 17 percent of construction workers can say the same. Rounding out the top five heaviest drinking professions were hotel and restaurant, arts and entertainment, and utilities. The lowest rates of drinking were seen in healthcare, education, government and finance.

That miners drink more heavily than anyone else could be explained by the stressful nature of the difficult and dangerous work. It could also be noted, though, that it may not be the job itself that dictates how people drink. It may be that people who drink more or less are drawn to certain jobs. For example, miners are mostly young men, who are more likely to be heavy drinkers than people in other demographics.

Which Employees Are Abusing Drugs?

For drug use, people working in hotels and restaurants topped the list. Nineteen percent of workers in these service industries used illegal drugs in the past month, while 17 percent had a substance use disorder. The next most likely people to use drugs were workers in arts and entertainment, followed by those in management, information and construction. Least likely to be drug users were government employees, teachers, miners, healthcare workers and those in agriculture.

The researchers collecting the data could not find an explanation for why drug use is so high with hotel and restaurant employees. Controlling for various factors, they found that these workers are most likely to be drug users regardless of age or gender. These same workers are not just using drugs casually. They are the most likely of any other type of job to have a substance use disorder.

In many ways, your job defines you. You spend 40-plus hours every week at your workplace, so it is an important factor in your life. However, it does not have to define your drinking or drug abuse. If you work in any of the areas listed here, you don’t have to follow the trend. You can be different and choose not to drink or use drugs.

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