If you have ever worked a job that demands you be on your feet all day long, that has you interacting with challenging people and which threatens your safety on a daily basis, you know how stressful and exhausting that can be. Certain jobs are characterized by some, or all, of these traits and unfortunately present an increased risk of substance abuse as a result.
What does the research say?
Numerous studies have been completed examining the connection between physical labor and the likelihood of substance use. One survey, printed in 2015, took a closer look at the statistics and found that a number of individuals in physically demanding jobs (mining, construction, utilities, food service) utilized illicit drugs and/or drank heavily on a regular basis.
As defined by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, illicit drugs include “marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, or prescription-type drugs used nonmedically. Heavy alcohol use is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on 5 or more days in the past 30 days.”
Among the full time employees aged 18-64:
- An average of 8.7% used alcohol heavily in the month prior to the survey.
- An average of 8.6% of the workers across all occupations used illicit drugs in the previous month.
- An average of 9.5% met the criteria for a substance use disorder within the year previous to the completion of the survey.
Another survey completed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers the percentage of individuals abusing substances according to job title. The most prevalent included:
- Those employed in the mining industry, where 17.5% reported heavy alcohol use (the highest rate among all industries) and 1 in 20 reported illicit drug use;
- Those in construction, where 16.5% reported heavy alcohol use and 1 in 9 report illicit drug use;
- Employees in the manufacturing field, where 1 in 10 reported heavy alcohol use and 1 in 13 report illicit drug use;
- And those employed in food services, where 11.8% reported heavy alcohol use and 1 in 5 report illicit drug use (the highest rate among all industries).
It’s important to note that even though these occupations have shown a higher likelihood of employees developing a substance use disorder, not everyone who works in one of these fields is guaranteed to do so. Looking at the statistics is not the same as making a sweeping generalization, so if you are interested in one of these fields, this is not meant to deter you. If anything, you should be aware of the risk and make an educated choice for your health.
Why is substance abuse prevalent in physical labor jobs?
Not everyone in the manual labor field battles addiction, but the two do occur simultaneously because of the fact many of these jobs can be highly stressful, physically demanding and downright exhausting. While not labor in the way mining is classified, food service employees constantly deal with demanding customers and poor wages. Miners are ever in harm’s way. And construction can be dull and slow at times.
Additional factors might include:
- Low pay relative to the work being completed;
- Peer pressure;
- The culture of the workplace, like drinks after work, happy hour, etc;
- If substances are available at work;
- If the age of most employees tends to be younger;
- Late-night shifts, graveyard shifts or irregular schedules;
- Harsh working conditions;
- Little supervision from management.
In order to cope with physical injury, pain as a result of the work putting increased stress on the body or overall work-related stress, many, unfortunately, turn to substances.
How can addiction be avoided?
There are several ways to stay dedicated to your profession while remaining strong in your personal commitment to refusing substances. Working with a doctor, physical therapist and/or chiropractor provides alternatives means of addressing and correcting chronic pain. Speaking with your management or HR representative can provide an outlet to voice your concerns and begin revamping workplace culture overall.
Additionally, meeting with a counselor can help you identify other ways of coping with stress and anxieties surrounding the workplace. It can also help you set boundaries with coworkers who may put pressure on you.
To begin working with a therapist who specializes in substance use disorders, contact Rehab After Work today by calling 610-644-6464.