With substance use disorder and addiction being such a prevalent problem in America, we think it is crucial for people to understand substance use and addiction as best as they possibly can. Part of looking at which professions have the highest rate of substance use disorder is not just about making people aware of how common it is in the workplace, but also to break the stigma of substance use disorder and show that drugs and alcohol impact people in every workplace, from entry level to executives.
Resources of Substance Use Rates
In April of 2015 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a survey that combined data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from every year between 2008 and 2012 to find out which professions held the highest rates of:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Illicit drug use
- Substance use disorder
The NSDUH assess symptoms of dependence or abuse of alcohol or drugs through a series of questions included in their survey. The questions are based on the criteria described by the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). It defines illicit drugs as:
- Non-medical use of prescription drugs
The NSDUH uses the definition of heavy alcohol use of:
- 5 or more drinks on the same occasion
- 5 or more days in the past 30 days
The rating system includes full-time workers from age 18 up to age 64.
Which Jobs Have the Highest Rates of Substance Use Disorder?
In the following categories, number represents the percentage of works out of all those surveyed between 2008 and 2012.
Heavy Alcohol Use
- Mining workers- 5%
- Construction- 5%
- Accommodations/Food Services- 8%
- Arts/Entertainment/Recreation- 5%
- Utilities- 3%
- Wholesale trade- 2%
- Management/Administrative support/waste management- 9%
- Manufacturing- 7%
- Agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting- 4%
- Retail trade- 0%
- Transportation and warehousing- 8%
- Other services (except public administration)- 5%
- Real estate/rental/leasing- 5%
- Information- 1%
- Professional/scientific/technical services- 7%
- Finance and insurance- 4%
- Public administration- 6%
- Educational services- 7%
- Health care and social assistance- 4%
Illicit Drug Use
The overall rate of illicit substance use among full-time workers, between the age of 18 to 64 years old, who admitted to having used within a month of taking the survey was 8.6% of workers. That may not seem like a lot, but when you consider that is a percentage of ALL professions it is actually a lot bigger than you think.
- Accommodations and food services- 1%
- Arts/Entertainment/Recreation- 7%
- Management/Administrative support/waste management- 1%
- Information- 7%
- Construction- 6%
- Other services (except public administration)- 2%
- Real estate/Rental/Leasing- 9%
- Retail trade- 3%
- Professional, scientific and technical services- 0%
- Wholesale trade- 8%
- Manufacturing- 4%
- Finance and insurance- 5%
- Utilities- 1%
- Transportation and warehousing- 9%
- Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing/Hunting- 7%
- Health care and social assistance- 5%
- Mining- 0%
- Educational services- 8%
- Public administration- 3%
Substance Use Disorder
When it comes to substance use disorder the data is collected for full-time workers from age 18 to 64 that fit the criteria for substance use disorder within a year of taking the survey. The rates of substance use disorder in different professions include:
- Accommodations and food services- 9%
- Construction- 3%
- Arts/Entertainment/Recreation- 9%
- Mining workers- 8%
- Utilities- 5%
- Management/Administrative support/waste management- 4%
- Retail trade-5%
- Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing/Hunting- 5%
- Wholesale trade- 4%
- Other services (except public administration)- 1%
- Real estate/Rental/Leasing- 0%
- Information- 8%
- Finance and insurance- 4%
- Manufacturing- 3%
- Transportation and warehousing- 1%
- Professional, scientific and technical services- 8%
- Public administration- 2%
- Health care and social assistance- 7%
- Educational services- 5%
Different Job Substance Use Trends
When looking at these rankings we can see a few professions that are consistently represented in the top five of all three categories.
NOTE: Remember the top ranks are not based on the overall number of users, but on the percentage of the total industry.
#1 in Heavy Alcohol Use– Mining Workers
121,000 mining workers that were surveyed contributed to the top ranking percent in an industry for heavy alcohol use. This number may seem small compared to the high numbers of heavy alcohol use in other professions. But think of it like this- If there are:
- 100,000 nurses and 70 of them drink heavily
- 100 miners and 70 of them drink heavily
Which would you think it a bigger issue?
#1 in Illicit Drug Use– Accommodations and food services
Accommodations and food services came in as the top rated profession for illicit drug use. According to the numbers of all those in this industry measured, approximately 1,169,000 were recorded for illicit drug use within a month of the survey.
This statistic does not change when accounting for gender or age differences. What this suggests is there may be something unique about this industry and how people end up using drugs more often working in accommodations and food services more than anywhere else.
#1 in Substance Use Disorder- Accommodations and food services
In terms of substance use disorder the accommodations and food services industry again come in at the top of the list. This time, the numbers of those surveyed shows that approximately 1,038,000 people in this profession actually fit the criteria from the DSM-IV for substance use disorder.
But unlike with illicit drug use, this rating did not stay the same when adjusting for age or gender differences. So what does that mean?
It means the higher rates of substance use disorder in the accommodation and food industry depends on the demographics employed in that industry. For example, if you look at age:
- 18-25 years old this industry is number 2
- 26-34 years old its number 1
- 35-49 years old this industry is number 3
- 50-64 years old its only number 11
So What Jobs are the Worst for Substance Use Disorder?
The big thing here is we must acknowledge that there are variables like age and gender that actually will make a big difference as to which jobs are ‘worse for substance use disorder’, while also recognizing the issue of substance use and addiction is not one size fits all. It is a different story for every individual. There is a formula that takes environment into account, but that formula is not the same for everyone.
A young woman working in the accommodations and food services industry might have a harder time staying off drugs than she might as a school teacher… or maybe not. Young men working in social assistance might find it a lot easier to stay off of drugs than one working in construction. It isn’t a guarantee, but it is a trend we can note.
So, does your job put you in an industry with higher rates of drinking, drug use or addiction? Are you more likely to have co-workers or employees that struggle with substance use than in another position?
With data like this we have to ask- does the job make an impact?