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With the advent of smart phones and tablets, the work world has changed from a 40-hour week to a 24/7 obligation for many people. The ability to check work-related emails and do tasks remotely means leaving work at work has become a thing of the past.

Along with the pressure to perform or respond at a moment’s notice, college and university graduates are no longer guaranteed a position in their field of study upon graduation. The need to take part-time jobs at minimum wage just to pay off school debt is a reality for many. It should come as no surprise that many people resort to drug and alcohol abuse because of the unbearable pressure to perform or to escape from financial stress. Certain workplace environments can make the problem even worse.

Professions Most Prone to Alcohol Abuse

Construction workerAccording to study results released in 2015 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), alcohol and drug use take a heavy toll on American businesses. Because of lost productivity, absenteeism, work-related injuries, increased illness and low employee morale, U.S industries lose billions of dollars each year due to substance abuse.1 The following additional statistics from the study further emphasize the problem:

  • Data from 2008 to 2012 indicates that an average of 8.7 percent of full-time workers ages 18 to 64 used alcohol heavily in the past month, 8.6 percent used illicit drugs in the past month, and 9.5 percent were dependent on or abused alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year.
  • The highest rates of alcohol use among full-time employee between 18 and 64 were found in the mining (17.5 percent) and construction industries (16.5 percent).
  • The highest rates of illicit drug use were found in the accommodations and food services industry (19.1 percent).1

The SAMHSA study went on to report the top 20 occupations where alcohol and illicit drugs were most commonly abused. Of this list, the top five jobs where alcohol is a significant problem included:

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Hotel and restaurant service workers
  • Arts and entertainment
  • Utility workers

The top five jobs where illicit drugs are a significant problem are:

  • Hotel and restaurant service workers
  • Arts and entertainment
  • Management
  • Information
  • Construction

“Heavy drinking” in the study is defined as drinking five or more drinks on one occasion within one or two hours of each other.2 And of course, any use of drugs for recreational purposes is considered illicit drug use.

Health care workers and educational service workers also made the list, but each had the lowest percentage, at just a little over 4 percent, compared to mine workers who topped this list at nearly 18 percent.

Understanding Job-Related Substance Abuse

Substance abuse, whether alcohol or illicit drugs, is often caused by stress at work. According to SAMHSA, the severity of job stress is directly related to how the job interrupts or detracts from a person’s goals in life.3 And a lack of balance between work, family and personal pursuits is the biggest culprit when it comes to turning to substances to relieve stress. According to a recent article in Forbes, the most common work-related stressors include travel, growth potential, deadlines, being in the public eye, the competitive nature of the work, the physical demands of the work, environmental conditions, hazards, risk to one’s life or the lives of others and meeting the public. Based on these criteria Forbes listed the following 10 occupations as the most stressful:

  • Enlisted military
  • Firefighter
  • Airline pilots
  • Police officers
  • Event coordinators
  • Public Relations Executive
  • Senior Corporate Executive
  • Broadcaster
  • Newspaper Reporter
  • Taxi Driver

Many of these occupations involve the care of others, as well as the sharing of vital information with the public. These high-pressure jobs often take workers away from loved ones for long periods of time which makes finding balance a challenge. The temptation to used drugs or alcohol to deal as work-related stress increases can become overwhelming.

How Much Does Job-Related Abuse Cost?

From a bottom-line perspective, it may be impossible to know how much revenue is lost due to work-related substance abuse problems. In 2012, CNN Money reported $42 billion lost every year as a result of painkiller abuse (to say nothing of legal expenses and treatment costs).4

Truthfully, though, the human toll of job-related substance abuse is immeasurable. Every day, millions of people sacrifice their physical health and their mental well-being for the next paycheck. Invaluable time spent with loved ones and recreational pursuits important to both physical and mental health fall prey to work obligations and deadlines. You do what you have to do to make sure there’s a roof overhead and food on the table. Year after year, the toll they pay for this labor can drive them into the jaws of a substance abuse problem.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Finding Help for Drug and Alcohol Abuse

If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.


1 Bush, Donna M., and Rachel N. Lipari. “SUBSTANCE USE AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER BY INDUSTRY.” Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry. 16 Apr. 2015.

2 Ingraham, Christopher. “The Jobs Most Likely to Make You Drink.” The Washington Post, WP Company. 29 Apr. 2015.

3 Wesch, Will. “What You Need to Know About Job Stress and Substance Abuse.” The Doctor Weighs In, The Doctor Weighs In. 6 Aug. 2017.

4 O’Toole, James. “How Prescription Drug Abuse Costs You Money.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network. 24 Feb. 2012.