Construction workers are the most likely to use drugs, according to a new study. The types of drugs may surprise you—cannabis should be the least of the public’s concern.
Researchers with New York University published their research Wednesday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. They’re the most likely to misuse prescription opioids and to use cocaine. As for cannabis, they’re second-most likely; those in service jobs took the prize for cannabis.
Pot Most Popular with Construction Workers
“It makes sense that we see higher rates of construction workers using pain-relieving substances such as opioids and marijuana, given the labor-intensive nature of their work and high rates of injuries,” said lead author Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU College of Global Public Health, in a statement.
True, but that’s also why it’s such a risk for them to use such drugs. In 2017, one of five of the 4,674 worker deaths were in the construction industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s mostly due to falls, but electrocutions and injuries also contributed. That makes this sector among the most dangerous to work in.
“Construction workers are at an increased risk for drug use, which makes them vulnerable to work-related injuries or even overdose deaths,” said Ompad, in a statement.
The study authors examined this issue looking at nearly 10 years worth of data of more than 293,000 people between 2005 and 2014 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Construction workers made up about 6 percent of the sample—16,610 participants—and they also included workers in the extraction and mining sector. The researchers compared their responses to people in 13 other jobs, also learning about workplace drug policies.
Compared to all other sectors, construction misused prescription opioids by 3.4 percent, compared to 2 percent. With cocaine, 1.8 percent of workers reported using compared to 0.8 percent elsewhere. Many more use pot—12.3 percent—but it’s was 0.1 percent less than the rate from the service industry.
Recently Unemployed Workers at Higher Risk for Drug Use
The team found that instability in the workplace also contributed to increased drug use. Those workers who have been unemployed in the last week or working three or more jobs were more likely to use cannabis and abuse prescription opioids. The scientists also found connections between workers who skipped work and those who used cannabis, cocaine, and prescription opioids.
While cannabis is fairly safe, the opioid epidemic has killed hundreds of thousands over the last 20 years, per the Centers for Disease and Control. This study highlights the risk this sector faces in light of the opioid crisis.