The survey, released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHS), used data from 2008 to 2012 to figure out exactly which industries’ employees drink the most, do the most drugs, and are most likely to abuse these substances. The results showed that 9.5% of full time workers between the ages of 18 and 64 were dependent on alcohol or drugs in the past year.
Miners lead the nation’s industry employees in heavy drinking, with 17.5% identified as “heavy drinkers.” The survey defines heavy drinking as consuming “five or more drinks on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on five or more days in the past 30 days.” Coming in second place are construction workers with 16.5% rate of heavy drinkers.
The findings may be unsurprising given the difficult nature of the profession, however, since they are also potentially dangerous, alcohol spillover on the job may present a serious risk to the employees.
In third place are hotel and restaurant workers. Employees of this industry, however, lead in terms of illicit drug use at a rate of 19%.
On a more comforting note, education and government employees have the lowest rates of heavy drinking and drug use. About 5% of educators reported heavy drinking, with similar rates of illicit drug use. Government employees had the lowest rates of any other group in drug use, and only slightly higher for heavy drinking.
These results, however, are not necessarily reflective of the nature of work in these industries, but are more likely related to the types of people who work for them. For instance, since men are more likely than women to drink and use drugs, and since younger people are more into drugs than older ones, then it stands to reason that industries that largely employ young men will likely see higher rates of drinking and drug use.
Indeed, when researchers controlled for age and gender, they found that the large number of young men in the mining industry would account for the heavy rates of drinking. Interestingly, however, this was not the case for drug use in restaurant and hotel workers. The survey found no difference in drug use among this group even when controlling for age and gender, meaning that regardless of whether they are old or young, male or female, restaurant and hotel workers are unequivocally the heaviest drug users in the industry.
Authors of the report also note that lost productivity from alcohol and drug abuse is costly for both the industry and the economy. According to a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 2006 report, excessive drinking in the US cost $222.5 billion, largely due to lost workplace productivity.
"Employee heavy alcohol use, use of illicit drugs, and substance use are associated with negative work behaviors such as absenteeism and frequent job changes," the authors wrote "This report indicates that the prevalence of substance use and substance use disorders is not consistent across industries."