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Addiction Among Construction Workers

by Landmark Recovery

November 12, 2020
Individuals working at a construction site

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that nearly 10% of American workers have a substance abuse disorder or misuse alcohol. Workers who abuse substances are more likely to miss work and be less productive while on the clock. Workers under the influence are also more likely to experience accidents resulting in injuries and death at work.

Each year, workers dealing with substance abuse cost the American economy billions of dollars in losses.

Addiction Rates Among Professionals

Two women working together on a project at the office.

Work can be extremely stressful, even when you are off the clock. Whether your job is physically demanding, mentally taxing, or emotionally draining, what you deal with at work also spills into your personal life.

To handle the stresses of work and life, many people turn to things like alcohol or cigarettes, while others turn to drugs like marijuana or cocaine.

A growing problem in the United States is the rate at which people abuse opiates or opioids.

Drug Use By Occupation

As far back as post WWII, researchers have been trying to determine why certain career fields are more prone to experiencing problems with alcoholism and addiction.

The Department of Labor reports that:

  • 14% of working Americans are heavy drinkers
  • 30% of employees abuse alcohol as well as drugs
  • 60% of people know of others who abuse substances and still go to work

The yearly survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that those employed in healthcare, education, public administration, finance and insurance, and technical/scientific services are far less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol when compared to people employed in food service, entertainment, management, information, or construction.

Recent studies have shown that construction workers in Ohio, Virginia, and Massachusetts are six to seven times more likely to die from an overdose than other occupations.

Addiction in Construction

Individuals working at a construction site

Construction workers are more likely to misuse opioids/opiates and to use cocaine than workers who don’t wear a hard hat. They also are second to only service jobs in their proclivity to use marijuana.     

  • 12% have alcoholism
  • 16.5% report that they are heavy drinkers
  • 11.6% admit to using illicit drugs within the last 30 days
  • 14.3% have a diagnosed substance use disorder
  • 2.3% are addicted to marijuana
  • The construction industry has been heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic as well, with 1.3% of workers reporting an opioid use disorder

These numbers are stark, not to mention worrying. The question is, why are construction workers so prone to substance abuse, and why is their rate of overdose death so high?

Why Are Construction Workers Susceptible to Addiction?

Construction is hard work, both mentally and physically. Every day, construction workers are exposed to serious hazards, OSHA says, and industry workers are at high risk of dying in a fatal work injury.

Construction workers often experience workplace injuries due to the nature of work and find themselves in a doctor’s chair seeking relief. The Midwest Economic Policy Institute reports that construction workers are 77% more likely to be injured on the job than the national average.

To help the construction worker feel better and get back to work, doctors routinely prescribe pain relievers like opiates. Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive. Many construction workers return to work before they are healed, risking further injury, not to mention working under the influence.

Part of the reason construction work is dangerous is that it requires a lot of attention to detail. If someone is under the influence, they cannot focus properly, putting them and their coworkers at high risk of injury.


A construction worker with a prescription for opioid pills can find themselves trapped in a tough cycle.

When construction worker is injured on the job and then prescribed opiates for their injuries, they are more likely to become addicted to the drugs. Because construction workers can be in near constant pain, they’re likely to abuse the opiates, taking more than necessary as they build a tolerance to the pills.

Working while taking the pain pills puts the construction employee at risk for further injury, which would prolong their use of the drugs and increase their tolerance for them.

Over time, the worker becomes addicted to the opiates and is far more likely to overdose on them.

Rising Overdose Deaths

In construction-heavy states like Ohio and Massachusetts, a quarter of all workers who died from opioid-related causes worked in construction. Drug abuse in Ohio is a huge problem, too, with one of the highest drug use by state ratings.

Additionally, in Ohio, construction workers are 7 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than elsewhere in the nation.

What Comes Next?

If you are concerned that you might have an addiction to opiates or are worried about a loved one, Landmark Recovery is happy to help. Our medical experts have paved the trail for healing and recovery. Call the confidential admissions phone line today at 888-448-0302 to learn more about our resources, programs, and other offerings to help you get back on track.

Visit our locations page for a drug and alcohol rehab center near you.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.