Substance Abuse at Work

Substance Abuse at Work — 4 Jobs with the Highest Risks of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse at work is a major problem in America today. Due to their high-pressure working environments, many American professionals crave comfort and relief through various methods. Unfortunately, your environment, stress levels, anxiety, and depression can lead to substance abuse.

When left unchecked, professionals in demanding career fields can end up with unhealthy coping mechanisms that can quickly turn into an addiction.

Substance abuse is a serious life-threatening problem, but it is one that can be resolved with a lot of hard work, access to the right resources, and ample support. You can help someone with substance abuse issues by learning and understanding how their professions are affecting their mental health before exploring solutions together.

Substance abuse at work

Job Fields with High Rates of Substance Abuse at Work

Substance abuse at work tends to be worse in certain industries.

1. Construction and Mining

The construction and mining industry makes up one of the largest sectors in the country. It also happens to be the work sector that contains the largest number of individuals who are using substances, such as cocaine, opioids, and marijuana.

To get paid, workers in construction and mining companies have to do labor-intensive and hazardous work. These workers often have to overexert themselves and continue working despite getting serious injuries. Thus, plenty of workers in this industry heavily rely on drugs to relieve themselves from physical pain.

2. Food and Hospitality Industry

In restaurants and hotels, alcohol is usually placed in grand displays that are highly visible to customers and workers. Unfortunately, the abundance of alcohol is not only present in their workplace—it also infiltrates their personal lives.

According to NPR, foodservice and hospitality workers comprise the third-largest population of heavy alcohol users among all employment sectors. Furthermore, this sector also has the highest number of individuals who abuse substances at work.

NPR says that it’s a ‘chicken and egg situation,’ meaning it is difficult to assess whether the industry pushed its employees toward substance abuse or the employees were already struggling with them when they entered the foodservice and hospitality work.

Regardless, the environment can create or exacerbate existing problems due to the high pressure and easy access to substances.

3. Healthcare

Healthcare workers often deal with patients who are in extreme pain or in life-or-death situations. The lives of their patients are dependent on the quality of their performance at work, which makes their jobs fast-paced and demanding.

Alarmingly, 15% of physicians have experienced substance abuse problems at work. These doctors have easy access to controlled substances, which they utilize to treat burnout and physical distress.

On the other hand, studies show that it’s nurses working in oncology, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and hospice care units who are at the highest risk of abusing alcohol and drugs to relieve stress and to cope with pain.

They are exposed to different environments, from hospitals to nursing care facilities, which come with their own environmental and occupational stressors. Whether you’re managing other burnt-out nurses or working on critical care patients, there is a lot of demand that you could be facing.

This is why many nurses, along with physicians and other healthcare workers, could resort to abusing substances at work. These healthcare professionals’ frequent interactions with struggling patients can take a toll on their overall health and lead to alarming rates of substance abuse at work.

4. Legal Industry

The legal industry often handles disturbing public cases that must be litigated for a long period of time. These lengthy and work-intensive cases can cause professionals in the legal industry to become overworked and even traumatized.

Due to their stressful responsibilities, a significant number of professionals in the legal industry revealed that they feel anxious and depressed and that they have an alcohol and drug problem. Lawyers have stated that they struggle with their mental health because they are unable to properly rest or disconnect from work due to their clients’ demands.

On the other hand, judges feel stressed and traumatized because they have to listen to detailed accounts of traumatic events and make responsible decisions that can drastically affect peoples’ lives.

How to Address Substance Abuse at Work

Whatever line of work you’re in, your mental health must not be overlooked. But for these professionals, their jobs can directly contribute to their substance abuse at work because of the many pressures they face on the daily basis.

If you are an employer in these industries, then you are given a huge role in the prevention and recovery of your workers from substance abuse.

Educate yourself and your workers regarding the causes and dangers of substance abuse. It is also important to provide workplace benefits that can reduce the factors that cause addiction.

For instance, ample vacation and sick leave must be offered so that your workers can take a break from the physical and mental toll of their work. If you believe that your workers need professional help, then you must get them to someone who can treat them.

A nurse will likely be their first point of contact as they will be able to recommend treatment or refer them to a specialist. There are many careers in nursing that cover substance abuse, from specialist nurses in the field of drugs and alcohol to public health nurses who are trained to educate the public on such issues.

By simply taking that first step, your employee will be making a giant step toward recovery.

Most importantly, you must provide healthcare benefits for employees, such as the Substance Abuse Employee Assistance Program.

Through the Affordable Care Act, employees can also use their insurance to get treatment for mental health problems and substance use disorders. Through proper education and healthcare access, substance abuse at work doesn’t have to be the problem that it is.

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3 years ago

Hi Diane,
Excellent article! Thank you for writing this.
Be well

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