Substance abuse continues to be a problem in the U.S. workforce, costing companies billions through lost productivity, absenteeism and job-related accidents. However, research shows that some professions are more affected by addiction or alcohol abuse, with rates of substance abuse varying based on industry and occupation. Some jobs are more stressful or demanding than others, which is a clear risk factor as people seek to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Working conditions can also contribute to poor mental health, especially when employees aren’t given the support they need.
To better understand patterns of addiction and alcoholism in certain professions, we’ve taken a closer look at the data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which gathers information on drug use in the United States. Keep reading to learn which professions have the highest rates of substance abuse and what treatment options are available.
Hospitality & Food Service
Over 13 million people are employed in hospitality and food service, representing nearly 10% of the American workforce. This field comprises a wide range of job roles, including chefs, waiters, bartenders, hotel managers, valets, event planners and sommeliers. Due to the fast-paced nature of the industry, it’s often characterized by heavy workloads, long hours and late-night shifts, all of which contribute to job-related stress. These factors have resulted in alarmingly high rates of substance abuse among restaurant and hospitality workers. According to the NSDUH survey, 19.1% of respondents reported using illicit drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and opioids in the past month, and 16.9% have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder. These numbers far exceed those seen in any other industry. Drinking is also a problem in this group, with 11.8% reporting heavy alcohol use.
Arts, Entertainment & Recreation
Although we usually associate the entertainment industry with celebrities, this field is highly varied. It includes musicians, performers, fitness trainers, producers, museum curators, artists, umpires, tour guides and other job roles related to leisure activities. According to the NSDUH survey, 13.7% of arts, entertainment and recreation workers used illicit drugs in the past month, while 12.9% reported a substance use disorder. The most commonly used drugs in this industry are marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and pharmaceuticals. Experts believe that several factors play a role in higher rates of substance abuse in this field, including high stress, competition, easy access to drugs or alcohol and a workplace culture that glamorizes their use.
This field includes executives, CEOs, senior managers and other leaders of companies or enterprises. Administration and support workers also fall under this category. Those in the management sector are often responsible for staff members and oversee daily operations, putting a lot of pressure squarely on their shoulders. They also have long hours, a heavy workload, tight deadlines and clients to please. With such a constant stream of stress, it’s no surprise that drug and alcohol use is a problem for these professionals. The NSDUH survey found that 12.1% of management workers reported drug use in the past month, along with 9.9% who drank heavily. As for substance use disorders, 11.4% had been diagnosed by a health care professional. Stimulants like cocaine and Adderall are some of the most commonly abused illicit drugs among executives and managers, closely followed by opioids such as heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers.
Information & Communications
This sector includes those involved in the production, distribution or processing of information and data. Think telecommunications, broadcasting, publishing, computer systems and marketing. While 8.1% of workers in the information industry reported heavy drinking in the past month, survey results show that illicit drug use is a bigger problem, affecting 11.7% of respondents. Further studies found that prescription opioid abuse is particularly high among information workers, with nearly one in five tech professionals (19.53%) struggling with an addiction to painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin.
Construction & Mining
Construction work and mining are demanding jobs. These industries are characterized by long hours, manual labor and frequent injuries. They’re also more dangerous than other jobs, with the highest number of work-related fatalities. These factors may help explain why those in the construction and mining industries abuse alcohol at more than twice the national average. Research shows that only 6.6% of the general population are heavy drinkers, compared to 17% of miners and 16.5% of construction workers. Illicit drug use is less common but still an issue, with 11.6% of respondents in construction admitting to recent drug use and only 5% of those in mining. Opioids are of particular concern as they’re often prescribed to help workers manage physical pain or injuries, but quickly lead to addiction.
Real estate agents, brokers and property managers spend a lot of time dealing with the public. Clients can be demanding or tedious and have unrealistic expectations, which wears on the mind. Combined with erratic hours, strong competition and an uncertain income, a career in real estate can be highly stressful. That may be why this industry also experiences high rates of substance abuse, with 10.9% of NSDUH respondents using illicit drugs in the past month, and 8.5% drinking heavily. Additionally, 10% of real estate professionals reported having a substance use disorder that interfered with their ability to function.
The sales industry includes those in retail and wholesale trade. These sectors are highly reliant on customer satisfaction, product quality and competitive pricing, which can create a stressful working environment. Many employees also put up with irregular schedules, low pay and no benefits. Drinking can provide a temporary escape from these issues, so alcohol abuse is common among sales workers, affecting 10.2% of wholesale trade professionals and 9% of retail employees. The rates of illicit drug use are similar, with 10.4% of those in wholesale trade admitting to having a substance abuse disorder and 10.5% of those in retail. This suggests that more support from bosses or managers could help workers deal with stress in a healthier way.
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
This sector comprises highly trained professionals who specialize in performing technical and scientific tasks for others. Lawyers, architects, engineers, consultants, researchers and interpreters are included in this category. Since many of these jobs require advanced degrees and extensive industry knowledge, employees are often driven, accomplished and successful in their careers, but these traits may also predispose them to drug or alcohol abuse. This is reflected in the NSDUH survey, which shows that 9% of respondents recently used illicit drugs, while 7.7% engaged in heavy drinking. Commonly abused drugs include stimulants, particularly among lawyers who face immense pressure and competition in the workplace.
Manufacturing involves turning raw materials or components into functional products. People in this industry often work in plants, factories and mills and use heavy machinery to complete their jobs. Compared to other professions, manufacturing has some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse, affecting 9.7% of survey respondents. Drug use is also a concern, with 7.4% of workers admitting to getting high in the past month. As the industry continues to be challenged by supply chain issues, job insecurity and financial pressures, these numbers may continue to climb as workers feel the impact.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a work of fiction, but it is based on the real-life experiences of stockbroker Jordan Belfort. The film sheds some light on the fast-paced, high-stakes lifestyle of many finance professionals and the drugs that follow, which often include alcohol, cocaine, MDMA and prescription pills. While this portrayal isn’t completely accurate, substance abuse can be a problem for many in the industry. The NSDUH survey shows that 7.4% of respondents are heavy drinkers and 9.4% have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder. Due to the stressors that come with the territory, working in finance can be a unique risk factor for developing problems with drugs or alcohol.
Recovery Solutions for Professionals
Despite the lasting effects of drug or alcohol abuse, many professionals put off going to rehab because they can’t spend weeks or even months at an inpatient facility. Fortunately, treatment options are available that allow workers to get sober without taking a leave of absence from work. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) provide the necessary support and structure to overcome addiction but on a flexible schedule, giving clients the opportunity to address their substance abuse issues in a way that works for them.
At Choice House, our IOP for Professionals offers treatment services in the evening and requires just 10 clinical hours a week. While enrolled, individuals will develop the tools they need to stay sober and better manage work-related stress. As they build a strong foundation for lasting recovery and shift their focus away from drugs or alcohol, they’ll begin to notice a difference in their health and wellness, which can translate into improvements in job performance, productivity and career outlook.
Addiction is a serious issue that affects a wide range of industries and occupations, but with the right treatment, recovery is possible. If you’re a professional struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, Choice House in Boulder, Colorado, has flexible treatment options that can help you reclaim your life. Contact or call us today at 303-578-4975 to learn more.